453

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Newton said that Song of Songs 1:3 ("your name is like perfume poured out") was the inspiration for this text: stanzas 1 and 2 compare perfume, with its sweet fragrance and healing properties, to the name of Jesus, which "soothes" and "heals." With its many biblical names for the Savior, stanza 3 evokes a variety of images about the person and ministry of Christ. The final stanzas confess that though our worship of Christ may be weak and imperfect, we will use our resources to praise him and testify to his love.
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Difficult times occur in the lives and communities of God’s people because this is a fallen world. The confessions demonstrate this perspective:
  • Belgic Confession, Article 15 teaches that “…by the disobedience of Adam original sin has been spread through the whole human race…a corruption of the whole human nature...” As a result, God’s people are “guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all [our] ways” (Article 14). In addition, “The devils and evil spirits are so corrupt that they are enemies of God and of everything good. They lie in wait for the church and every member of it like thieves, with all their power, to destroy and spoil everything by their deceptions” (Article 12).
  • Our World Belongs to God continues to affirm that “God has not abandoned the work of his hands,” nevertheless “our world, fallen into sin, has lost its first goodness...” (paragraph 4). And now “all spheres of life—family and friendship, work and worship school and state, play and art—bear the wounds of our rebellion” (paragraph 16).
Yet, in a fallen world, God’s providential care is the source of great assurance, comfort and strength. Through these thoughts, our trust in God is inspired.
  • Belgic Confession, Article 13 is a reminder that God’s providence reassures us that God leads and governs all in this world “according to his holy will…nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.” Further, this Confession identifies that this “gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father, who watches over us with fatherly care...in this thought we rest.”
  • Belgic Confession, Article 13, is a reminder that much is beyond human understanding and so “we do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what God does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend.”
  • In Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9, Question and Answer 26 we testify that we “trust God so much that [we] do not doubt that he will provide whatever [we] need for body and soul and will turn to [our] good whatever adversity he sends upon [us] in this sad world.”
  • In Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10, Question and Answer 28, we are assured that through our trust in the providence of God we can have “good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.”
  • When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we ask not to be brought into the time of trial but rescued from evil. In doing so we ask that the Lord will “uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle...” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 52, Question and Answer 127)
Belgic Confession, Article 26 speaks about the intercession of Christ as the ascended Lord. “We have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” We, therefore, do not offer our prayers as though saints could be our intercessor, nor do we offer them on the “basis of our own dignity but only on the basis of the excellence and dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith.” Because Jesus Christ is our sympathetic High Priest, we approach the throne “in full assurance of faith.”
 
No greater assurance can be found than that expressed in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1: “I am not my own by I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”
 
In all difficult times, we eagerly await the final day when God “will set all things right, judge evil, and condemn the wicked” (Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 57).
 
No hope is stronger than that expressed in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1: we “…belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ…because I belong to him, Christ by His Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life...”
 
The basic perspective of hope is expressed in Belgic Confession, Article 37 “…the Lord will make them (us) possess a glory such as the human heart could never imagine. So we look forward to that day (of Christ’s return) with longing in order to enjoy fully the promises of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
 
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 15, Question and Answer 42 clarifies what may be misunderstood when it says that even though Christ died for us, we still have to die, but “our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.” Additionally, Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 17, Question and Answer 45 explains that Christ’s resurrection “is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.”
 
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Questions and Answers 57 and 58 speak reassurances about the actual event of dying: “Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head, but also my very flesh will be raised by the power of Christ, reunited with my soul, and made like Christ’s glorious body,” and “even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Question and Answer 58).
 

Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 56 summarizes our hope by testifying, “We long for that day when our bodies are raised, the Lord wipes away our tears, and we dwell forever in the presence of God. We will take our place in the new creation, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, and the Lord will be our light. Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

453

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Tune Information

Name
ST. PETER
Key
D Major
Meter
8.6.8.6
453

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Hymn Story/Background

With the heading "The Name of Jesus," this text by John Newton was published in the Olney Hymns (1779), where it was part of a group of hymns inspired by scriptural passages. The text is a fine example of Newton's evangelical piety and his skill at incorporating biblical phrases or allusions into his hymn texts. Of his original seven stanzas, 1, 2, and 5-7 are included.
 
Newton said that Song of Songs 1:3 ("your name is like perfume poured out") was the inspiration for this text: stanzas 1 and 2 compare perfume, with its sweet fragrance and healing properties, to the name of Jesus, which "soothes" and "heals." With its many biblical names for the Savior, stanza 3 evokes a variety of images about the person and ministry of Christ. The final stanzas confess that though our worship of Christ may be weak and imperfect, we will use our resources to praise him and testify to his love.
 
Composed by Alexander R. Reinagle, ST. PETER was published as a setting for Psalm 118 in Reinagle's Psalm Tunes for the Voice and Pianoforte (c. 1836). The tune first appeared with Newton's text in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861); it is now usually associated with this text, for which it is a better match than for Psalm 118. The tune was named after St. Peter-in-the-East, the church in Oxford, England, where Reinagle was organist from 1822-1853.
 
ST. PETER features descending motion after an initial rise. Sing stanzas 1-2 and 4-5 in parts, but sing the crucial middle stanza in unison. This music needs to express the fervor of the text without any festive fanfares.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

John Newton (b. 1725; d. 1807) was born into a Christian home, but his godly mother died when he was seven, and he joined his father at sea when he was eleven. His licentious and tumultuous sailing life included a flogging for attempted desertion from the Royal Navy and captivity by a slave trader in West Africa. After his escape he himself became the captain of a slave ship. Several factors contributed to Newton's conversion: a near-drowning in 1748, the piety of his friend Mary Catlett, (whom he married in 1750), and his reading of Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ. In 1754 he gave up the slave trade and, in association with William Wilberforce, eventually became an ardent abolitionist. After becoming a tide-surveyor in Liverpool, England, Newton came under the influence of George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley and began to study for the for the ministry. He was ordained in the Church of England and served in Olney (1764-1780) and St. Mary Woolnoth, London (1780-1807). His legacy to the Christian church includes his hymns as well as his collaboration with William Cowper in publishing Olney Hymns (1779), to which Newton contributed 280 hymns, including "Amazing Grace."
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Little is known of Alexander R. Reinagle’s (b. Brighton, Sussex, England, 1799; d. Kidlington, Oxfordshire, England, 1877) early life. Of Austrian descent, he came from a family of musicians and became a well-known organ teacher. A writer of teaching manuals for string instruments, Reinagle also compiled two books of hymn tunes, the 1836 collection and A Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes (1840). He also composed a piano sonata and some church music.
— Bert Polman
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