521

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

This fine text about divine grace and providence contains various biblical images: Christ is the "fountain of life" (Ps. 36:9; Zech. 13:1) from which "streams of mercy" come. But Christ is also our "rock" (often used in the psalms along with "mount" or "Ebenezer," which means "stone of help"); he "rescues me from danger." Christ also "sought me when a stranger" (Col. 1:21) and "binds" or "seals" his own even when they are "prone to wander" (see Matt. 18:11-14). That phrase may have had special meaning for Robinson, who became successively a Calvinist Methodist, Congregationalist, Baptist, and finally a Unitarian.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

We celebrate with joy that Christ has come to rescue us from sin and evil through the work of his son, Jesus Christ. Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 35 identifies the church as “the fellowship of those who confess Jesus as Lord…the bride of Christ…”
 

Belgic Confession, Article 21 professes how Jesus Christ is a high priest forever and provided for the cleansing of our sins; Article 10 proclaims him as the “true eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship and serve.” Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 2 calls us to “live and die in the joy of this comfort” and “to thank God for such deliverance.”

521

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Assurance

In Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
by making peace through the blood of his cross.
And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death,
so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him.
Brothers and sisters: through the cross of Christ
we are forgiven and reconciled to God. Praise be to God!
—based on Colossians 1:19-22, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two
521

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Tune Information

Name
NETTLETON
Key
D Major
Meter
8.7.8.7 D

Recordings

521

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Hymn Story/Background

Robert Robinson wrote this text in four stanzas for Pentecost Sunday in 1758 when he was a pastor in Norwich. The text was published in A Collection of Hymns used by the Church of Christ in Angel-Alley, Bishopsgate (1759). Three of his four stanzas are included with some alterations.
 
This fine text about divine grace and providence contains various biblical images: Christ is the "fountain of life" (Psalm 36:9; Zecheriah 13:1) from which "streams of mercy" come. But Christ is also our “Ebenezer” which comes from 1 Samuel 7:12—“Then Samuel took a stone…called its name Ebenezer, saying ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us;’” he "rescues me from danger." Christ also "sought me when a stranger" (Colossians 1:21) and "binds" or "seals" his own even when they are "prone to wander" (see Matthew 18:11-14). That phrase may have had special meaning for Robinson, who became successively a Calvinist Methodist, Congregationalist, Baptist, and finally a Unitarian.
 
NETTLETON is a rounded bar form (AABA) with a harmonization easily sung in parts by congregations. Named for nineteenth-century evangelist Ahasel Nettleton, the tune was published anonymously with this text in John Wyeth's collection of folk hymnody, Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second (1813). The tune may possibly be related to a group of folk melodies used for "Go Tell Aunt Rhody Her Old Grey Goose Is Dead."
— Bert Polman

In 1752, a young Robert Robinson attended an evangelical meeting to heckle the believers and make fun of the proceedings. Instead, he listened in awe to the words of the great preacher George Whitefield, and in 1755, at the age of twenty, Robinson responded to the call he felt three years earlier and became a Christian. Another three years later, when preparing a sermon for his church in Norfolk, England, he penned the words that have become one of the church’s most-loved hymns:  “Come, thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace.”
— Laura de Jong

Author Information

In his youth, Robert Robinson (b. Swaffham, Norfolk, England, 1735; d. Birmingham, England, 1790) was apprenticed to a London barber. Although raised in the Church of England, he did not become a Christian until 1755 after hearing a sermon on "the wrath to come" by George Whitefield. He then became a pastor and briefly served a Calvinist Methodist chapel in Mildenhall, Suffolk, England, and an Independent congregation in Norwich. In 1759 he was rebaptized and began a long association with the Stone Yard Baptist Church in Cambridge, England. Following his retirement in Birmingham in 1790, he was influenced by Unitarianism. Robinson published a new edition of William Barton's Psalms (1768) and A History of Baptism (1790) and wrote thirteen hymns.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

A printer by trade, John Wyeth (b. Cambridge, MA, 1770; d. Philadelphia, PA, 1858) is important in the history of hymnody as a compiler and publisher of early shape-note tunebooks. He worked briefly in Santa Domingo but had to flee when a revolt oc­curred. In 1792 he settled in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he lived for much of the rest of his life. A Unitarian, he was coeditor for some thirty-five years of the Federalist newspaper Oracle of Dauphin, a prominent source of news and opinion. Not a musician himself, Wyeth published Repository of Sacred Music (1810) and, with the help of Methodist preacher and musician Elkanah Kelsay Dare, Repository of Music, Part Second (1813). Intended for Methodist and Baptist camp meetings, these tune books contained a number of anonymous folk tunes as well as music by a number of composers, includ­ing William Billings. The two volumes influenced the next generation of tunebooks, such as Southern Harmony, and a number of the folk tunes have survived as hymn tunes in various modern hymnals.
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

Using imagery of Christ as the giver of living water and the shepherd gathering his sheep back into the fold, this hymn reminds the worshipper of the ever bountiful grace of God. Like Robinson, we too, are “prone to wander,” and are quick to seek redemption through our own power. But God continues to bring us back from our wandering, until, songs of praise on our lips, we dance forever before the mount of his redeeming love.
— Laura de Jong
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