This week it is my pleasure to invite one of our elders, Mark Keown, to pen this week’s letter and introduce a hymn which speaks deeply to our hearts and resonates down within our spirits.
The accompanying video features many talented musicians and singers from BPC and was produced by Mervyn Patterson.



Heaven’s eternal days before thee…

Pressing on: Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

The Gospel Coalition recently published a list of Ten Hymns Youth Groups Should Sing.

Number one was Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken, written almost 200 years ago by Henry Francis Lyte. It has six eight-line verses, the language is often old-fashioned and there’s no chorus or bridge!

How on earth did this 48-line marathon make it to the top of the Gospel Coalition’s youth group chart? If you’re not familiar with the hymn, you can find a copy of the words at the bottom.

One practical factor is that it’s been given a great new tune. The second is that Lyte’s strikingly memorable lines are infused with biblical truths grounded in raw personal experience. If you don’t already know Lyte’s life story, it’s worth a bit of research. The Gospel Coalition article puts it very simply:

‘This hymn walks us through the labours of the Christian life, teaching us that our hardships have a purpose.’

It also reminds us, in every verse, that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God. When we sing these powerful words, letting them live and breathe in our spirits, worship becomes formative, deepening our faith and strengthening us for whatever we have to face.

From the opening lines, Lyte expresses complete commitment to his Lord:

‘All to leave and follow Thee. . .
Thou from hence my all shall be.’

Through the first four verses and in practically every line, he turns his back on the world, on ‘every fond ambition’, and faces every ‘disaster, scorn and pain’ in the light of God’s loving presence:

‘O, while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.’

His intimate knowledge of his heavenly Father’s lovingkindness is all the more remarkable because, when he was a child, Lyte’s earthly father abandoned the family and refused to recognise his son. That simple trust in his heavenly Father, no matter the circumstances, is expressed gloriously in the climax of the fourth verse. His certainty springs from both the promise of Romans 8: 28 and his own experience of God’s faithfulness in the storms:

‘I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.’

Just as David often does in the Psalms, the fifth verse begins with Lyte speaking directly to his own soul. In the first four verses, he reminds himself of God’s great love through every ordeal. Now he comes to the only possible conclusion:

‘Soul, then know thy full salvation’

Father, Son and Holy Spirit are at work in him and on his behalf, even in the painful here and now, where there remains ‘Something still to do, or bear’.

Few of us will face all the trials that Lyte mentions, but many of us have a great deal to bear in our personal circumstances, in our natural families and in our church family. We’ve experienced great loss and grief; loneliness; fears and doubts; and the everyday disappointments and frustrations that simply wear us down. Nevertheless, the final verse reminds us that we never travel alone: ‘God’s own hand shall guide us there.’

God’s grace enables us to stay true to the close of our ‘earthly mission’ and press on in our ‘pilgrim days’. One day, Lyte reminds us as the hymn ends,

‘Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight and prayer to praise.’


Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

Jesus, I my cross have taken, 
All to leave and follow Thee. 
Destitute, despised, forsaken, 
Thou from hence my all shall be. 
Perish every fond ambition, 
All I’ve sought or hoped or known. 
Yet how rich is my condition! 
God and heaven are still my own.

Let the world despise and leave me, 
They have left my Saviour, too. 
Human hearts and looks deceive me; 
Thou art not, like them, untrue. 
O while Thou dost smile upon me, 
God of wisdom, love, and might, 
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.

Man may trouble and distress me, 
’Twill but drive me to Thy breast. 
Life with trials hard may press me; 
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest. 
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me 
While Thy love is left to me; 
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me, 
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure, 
Come disaster, scorn and pain 
In Thy service, pain is pleasure, 
With Thy favour, loss is gain 
I have called Thee Abba Father, 
I have stayed my heart on Thee 
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather; 
All must work for good to me.

Soul, then know thy full salvation 
Rise o’er sin and fear and care 
Joy to find in every station, 
Something still to do, or bear. 
Think what Spirit dwells within thee, 
Think what Father’s smiles are thine, 
Think that Jesus died to win thee, 
Child of heaven, canst thou repine?

Haste thee on from grace to glory, 
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven’s eternal days before thee, 
God’s own hand shall guide us there. 
Soon shall close thy earthly mission, 
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days, 
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.