583

O Love of God, How Strong and True

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text's theme is God's love, which we cannot comprehend but do experience (st. 1-2). We may observe God's love in the creation around us (st. 3-4), but we find his love most clearly expressed in the sacrifice of Christ (st. 5-6); it is in this redemptive love that we find our eternal rest (st. 7).
 
Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The best-loved expressions of praise for God’s care-taking work of his children comes from the familiar words of Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1: “My only comfort in life and death [is] that I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil...Because I belong to him, Christ by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes we wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
 

This great truth is explained more completely by Belgic Confession, Article 20. God has given his Son to die for us “…by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him, we might have immortality and eternal life.” And in Article 21, “…He endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.” For this redemptive work we give praise and adoration.

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

Tune Information

Name
WAREHAM
Key
G Major or modal
Meter
8.8.8.8

Hymn Story/Background

One of Horatius Bonar's best hymn texts, “O Love of God” was published in his Hymns of Faith and Hope (1861) in ten stanzas.
 
The text's theme is God's love, which we cannot comprehend but do experience (st. 1-2). We may observe God's love in the creation around us (st. 3-4), but we find his love most clearly expressed in the sacrifice of Christ (st. 5-6); it is in this redemptive love that we find our eternal rest (st. 7).
 
William Knapp composed WAREHAM, so named for his birthplace. WAREHAM was published in his 1738 collection with the melody in the tenor as a setting for Psalm 36. Its slightly simplified form appears in nearly all modern hymnals. The tune is easy to sing because of its almost continuous stepwise motion and smooth melodic Contour. Try assigning the stanzas as follows for antiphonal singing: stanzas 1 and 2 to one group, stanzas 3 and 4 to another, and the remaining three stanzas to the entire congregation. Sing in harmony for the even-numbered stanzas, but the strength of unison singing is necessary for stanza 7.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Horatius Bonar (b. 1808; d. 1889) was educated at the University of Edinburgh. At the age of thirty he became a preacher in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, a church that underwent a schism "the Disruption"– in 1843. A major question in the controversy was whether a minister could be forced on a congregation by an aristocratic sponsor. Many church leaders and the government agreed that he could, but one-third of the ministers, including Bonar, disagreed, and in 1843 this group formed the Free Church of Scotland. Bonar was a prolific, popular author of tracts, sermons, and hymns (even though his congregation sang exclusively psalms during much of his life). One of Bonar's great interests was biblical prophecy and the return of Christ, an interest reflected in some of his hymns. He published several hundred hymns in collections such as The Bible Hymn Book (1845), Hymns of Faith and Hope (1857,1861), and Hymns of the Nativity (1879). Many were written casually, illustrating very little interest in poetic finesse, but a few have had staying power and are still found in many modern hymnals.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

William Knapp (b. Wareham, Dorsetshire, England, 1698; d. Poole, Dorsetshire, 1768) was a glover by trade. He served as the parish clerk at St. James's Church in Poole (1729-1768) and was organist in both Wareham and Poole. Known in his time as the "country psalm-singer," Knapp published A Set of New Psalm Tunes and Anthems (1738) and New Church Melody (1753). 
— Bert Polman

Emily Ruth Brink (b. 1940, Grand Rapids, MI) graduated from Calvin College (BA in Music), the University of Michigan (MM in Church Music) and Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (PhD in Music Theory). She taught at Manhattan (Montana) Christian School (1964-1966), the State University of New York (New Paltz; 1966-1967), Trinity Christian College (Palos Heights, IL; 1967-1972), and the University of Illinois (Campaign/Urbana; 1974-1983), also serving as organist and choir director in both Episcopal and Christian Reformed churches in those areas.

In 1977 she was appointed to the Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee, and in 1983 moved to Grand Rapids in a change of careers to become the first music and worship editor of the Christian Reformed Church. She was the founding editor of Reformed Worship; editor of the Psalter Hymnal (1987), Songs for LiFE (1994), Sing! A New Creation (2001, 2002); co-editor with Bert Polman of The Psalter Hymnal Handbook (1998), and editor of many other worship-related publications. Since 1984 she has been an adjunct professor at Calvin Theological Seminary, directing the seminary choir in the first years, and introducing courses on church music and worship before being granted emeritus status in 2009. 

Her ecumenical work began with the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, becoming the first woman president (1990-1992); in 2006 she was named a Fellow of the society in recognition of distinguished services to hymnody and hymnology. She served in both local and national offices of the American Guild of Organists, and has been a member for more than twenty years of the Consultation on Common Texts, serving as chair from 2008 to 2014.

In 2002, she became a Senior Research Fellow at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, contributing to The Worship Sourcebook and other publications; serving as program chair of the annual Symposium on Worship; and helping to plan and participate in worship conferences in more than fifteen countries. 
— Emily Brink
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