Scottish theologian and preacher
March 27, 1842 - August 28, 1906
Matheson's commentary about the hymn "O Love that
will not let me go":
"It was the day of my sister's marriage...Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression rather of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself...this came like a dayspring from on high. I have never been able to gain once more the same fervor in verse."
There is a story of how years before, he had been engaged until his fiancé learned that he was going blind, and there was nothing the doctors could do, and she told him that she could not go through life with a blind man.
His sister’s marriage brought fresh reminder of his own heartbreak, over his fiancé’s refusal to “go through life with a blind man.” It is the midst of this circumstance and intense sadness that the Lord gives him this hymn – written he says in 5 minutes!
Something happened to forty-year old George as he sat alone there in the darkness of his blindness, something known only to himself, something which caused him severe mental suffering. He never confided to anyone what the problem was, and yet his heart cried out to Christ.
As his heart moaned, words welled up in his mind, words of comfort. "I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice rather than of working it out myself," he said later. He jotted the lines down.
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O light that followest all my
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
How could he maintain quenchless hopefulness in the midst of such circumstances and trials? His hymn gives us a clue. “I trace the rainbow in the rain, and feel the promise is not vain”
-- listen to these lines from his pen:
"There are times when things look very dark to me -- so dark that I have to wait even for hope. A long-deferred fulfillment carries its own pain, but to wait for hope, to see no glimmer of a prospect & yet refuse to despair; to have nothing but night before the casement & yet to keep the casement open for possible stars; to have a vacant place in my heart & yet to allow that place to be filled by no inferior presence -- that is the grandest patience in the universe. It is Job in the tempest; it is Abraham on the road to Moriah; it is Moses in the desert of Midian; it is the Son of man in the Garden of Gethsemane."
It takes a real faith to trace the rainbow through the rain; but it takes the storm cloud to make the rainbow, & George Matheson learned to have a child-like trust, & his testimony has blessed millions throughout this generation.
Prayers of George Matheson
My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn! I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorn. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear. Teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
No part of my being needs Thee like my heart.
All else within me can be filled with Thy gifts. My hunger can be satisfied by daily bread. My thirst can be allayed by earthly waters. My cold can be removed by household fires. My weariness can be relieved by outward rest. But no outward thing can make my heart pure.
The calmest day will not calm my passions. The fairest scene will not beautify my soul. The richest music will not make harmony within. The breezes can cleanse the air, but no breeze can cleanse a spirit.
This world has not provided for my heart. It has provided for my eyes, it has provided for my ears, it has provided for my touch, it has provided for my taste, it has provided for my sense of beauty-but it has not provided for my heart.
Provide Thou for my heart, O Lord!
It is the only unwinged bird in all creation.
Give it wings! O Lord! Give it wings!
Earth has failed to give it wings; its very power of loving has often drawn it into the mire.
Be Thou the strength of my heart. Be Thou its fortress in temptation, its shield in remorse, its covert in the storm, its star in the night, its voice in the solitude. Guide it in its gloom, help it in its faintness, prompt it in its perplexity, lead it through its labyrinth, raise it from its ruins.
I cannot rule this heart of mine; keep it under the shadow of Thy Own wings.
Life is to be just hard enough to bring out the heroic!
– George Matheson.
[end of article]
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