O LOVE THAT WILT NOT LET ME GO
George Matheson, 1842–1902
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)
The writing of this thoughtful and artistically constructed text is most remarkable! It was authored by an esteemed Scottish minister who was totally blind and who described the writing as the “fruit of much mental suffering.” Many conjectures have been made regarding the cause of the “mental suffering.” Fortunately, Dr. George Matheson did leave this account:
My hymn was composed in the manse of Innelan on the evening of the 6th of June, 1882, when I was 40 years of age. I was alone in the manse at that time. It was the night of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. 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 of having it dictated to me by some inward voice rather than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.
A very popular account for the writing of this hymn, though never fully substantiated, claims that it was the result of the reminder at his sister’s wedding of the great disappointment that Matheson had experienced just before he was to have been married to his college fiancée. When told of his impending total blindness, she is said to have informed him, “I do not wish to be the wife of a blind preacher.”
It is very possible that the lingering memory of this rejection from an earthly lover prompted George Matheson to write this beautiful expression of an eternal love that will never be broken:
O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul on Thee; I give Thee back the life I owe, that in Thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
O Light that follow’st all my way, I yield my flick’ring 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 thru pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee; I trace the rainbow thru the rain, and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head, 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.
For Today: Romans 8:35–39; 1 John 3:1; Revelation 1:5, 6
Rest securely in God’s eternal love, regardless of the human difficulty or suffering you may be experiencing. Allow this musical message to help you—
Osbeck, K. W.
- Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake are we killed all day long: we are counted as sheep for the slaughter: Nevertheless, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, whic is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35–39
- That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with these our eyes, which we have looked upon, and these hands of ours have handled of that word of life, 1 John 3:1
- And from Jesus Christ which is that faithful witness, and that first begotten of th dead, and that Prince of the Kings of the earth, unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood, And made us Kings and Priests unto God even his Father, to him, I say, be glory, and dominion for evermore. Amen. Revelation 1:5-6