Samuel Medley (1738-1799)

Also found in Inspiring Hymns, Zondervan, Grand Rapids (1968 ed.) © 1951, #499 [published here as “His Loving-Kindness” with a variation on the first line to “Awake, my soul, to joyful lays” and a different tune from the Baptist Hymnal].

The Hymn

  1. Awake, my soul, to joyful lays,
    And sing thy great Redeemer’s praise;
    He justly claims a song from me –
    His lovingkindness, O how free!
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness, O how free!
  2. He saw me ruined in the fall,
    Yet loved me notwithstanding all;
    He saved me from my lost estate –
    His lovingkindness, O how great!
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness, O how great!
  3. Though numerous hosts of mighty foes,
    Though earth and hell my way oppose,
    He safely leads my soul along –
    His lovingkindness, O how strong!
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness, O how strong!
  4. When trouble, like a gloomy cloud,
    Has gathered thick and thundered loud,
    He near my soul has always stood –
    His lovingkindness, O how good!
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness, O how good!
  5. Often I feel my sinful heart
    Prone from my Jesus to depart;
    But though I have him oft forgot,
    His lovingkindness changes not.
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness changes not.
  6. Soon I shall pass the gloomy vale,
    Soon all my mortal powers must fail;
    O! may my last expiring breath
    His lovingkindness sing in death.
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness sing in death.
  7. Then let me mount and soar away
    To the bright world of endless day;
    And sing with raptures and surprise,
    His lovingkindness in the skies.
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness in the skies.

(Hymn words accessed at CyberHymnal) Stanzas included in our study hymnal are indicated with bold print.

Quickly, let me note some textual variants to the above wording that are found in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal:

  1. Awake, my soul, in joyful lays,
    And sing thy great Redeemer’s praise;
    He justly claims a song from me –
    His lovingkindness is so free!
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness is so free!
  2. He saw me ruined in the fall,
    Yet loved me notwithstanding all;
    And saved me from my lost estate –
    His lovingkindness is so great!
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness is so great!
  3. Through mighty hosts of cruel foes,
    Where earth and hell my way oppose,
    He safely leads my soul along –
    His lovingkindness is so strong!
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness is so strong!
  4. Often I feel my sinful heart
    Prone from my Jesus to depart;
    And though I oft have him forgot,
    His lovingkindness changes not.
    Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
    His lovingkindness changes not.

Most of the textual changes seem to be in the realm of language updating from the lat 18th Century style to a more “modern” mid-20th century rendering. I feel that the editors of the BH may have missed something in the changes of the refrain, though. There seems to be more power in singing, “Lovingkindness, Oh how sweet!” as opposed to, “Lovingkindness is so sweet!” But I quibble. Suffice it here to say that as with many hymns some variations have made their way into our song books.

Scriptural Connection

I would argue for two separate connections to Scripture, one from the Old Testament and one from the New. From the Old Testament the hymn-writer might have in mind the comforting airs of Psalm 23, a note from David’s pen that reminds us that although difficulties are prevalent, God in His loving kindness watches over His children. Bridging this to the heart of the Gospel found in John 3:16, the singer of this hymn can see the provision made by God’s great love.

What does it mean?

The narrator is dreaming of Heaven. Therefore he encourages his soul to wake up in a place of joy (that’s the suggestion by the words “joyful lays”). The idea is that heaven is a place of pure joy and comfort altogether. The changing of the pronoun (using either “to” or “in”) bears little consequence.

There is a fountain of theology in this old hymn as with many of the great old songs of the faith. We read about the beauty, comfort, and joy of Heaven provided by a God who loves us regardless of our own nature. Men might be rebellious and antagonistic toward God, but it is His lovingkindness that leads us out of that state and into this new blissful place. We are reminded that no matter how we might forget God, He in His lovingkindness towards us never changes.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.

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