1. Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.
2. Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
3. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
"Come Thou Fount," a hymn written by Robert Robinson in 1775, tells the honest struggle of a human being seeking to be in tune with God and his grace.
It is poetry and not necessarily cut and dried theology. And it's honest to the human condition. (Yes, I've now said that twice in just a few lines. It's important that you get this: The hymn is an honest expression of the human condition.)
I've read and heard various objections to this hymn over the past few years. Some people complain about the so-called archaic words, some about its supposed less than accurate theology.
ARCHAIC WORDS? For instance, the word "Ebenezer" in verse two bothers some people. Okay. That's a word that few of us know, but it comes from 1 Samuel (see 4:1, 2; 5:1; 7:7-12). It's clearly a place name. Ah, but its meaning is deep and rich. It means "stone of help." In 1 Samuel 7 the Israelites set up a memorial stone to commemorate God's victory for them over the Philistines. So though the word is "old" and few of us know it, its meaning was a treasure to Israel and it should be for us too. Instead of changing the word in verse two of "Come Thou Fount," maybe we should just let people know what it means. (Knowing its meaning might help us better understand the true nature of Ebenezer Scrooge as well.)
BAD THEOLOGY? As for the claims that the theology is "off," I'd like to say that maybe it is "off" according to some sort of "pure" systematic or biblical theology that might neglect the reality of human experience. I've heard two grievances on this front, both of which are in verse three. The first is the idea of "owing" God, or being a debtor, specifically to grace. "How can you owe God for grace--something freely given?" Good question. You can't pay back something that's freely given. You can try to pay it back, but you don't actually owe anything. And, in terms of grace, there is NO WAY you could ever pay it back.
Still, there is a non-monetary sense in which a person can be endebted to someone, a sense in which we KNOW we owe someone something. This doesn't have to be guilt-driven or guilt-ridden. It just is so. And, in reality, we DO owe God everything. He is Lord and he made us; we owe him allegience. Period. Oh, and he saved his people. As his people, owe him our rescued lives. So it's not necessarily a pay back issue, is it?
In the hymn, Robinson tries to express this. Of course he can't pay God back, but he knows he owes God in some sense, though probably not in the "I need to pay this back" sense. It's deeper than that.
Why does he ask that the grace be a fetter? This leads us to the second so-called theological problem, namely, the wandering issue. I've read on recent blogs that people don't like that Robinson says he's prone to wander. These writers and responders say, "Oh, no. I'm bound to Christ. I won't wander." Fine. God's people are bound to Christ. I don't deny it. But I won't be so foolish as to say that I'm not prone to wander. Who isn't? Who has so left behind his sinful inclinations that he or she never wanders?
None. None, save Christ.
So Robinson says, "bind my wandering heart to thee." It's a plain, very honest, very open... very davidic way of admitting the truth. But like David, he doesn't stop there. As is characteristic in so many of David's Psalms, he turns to God and asks for aid. "Here's my heart, O take and seal it/Seal it for thy courts above." How will his heart ever be fit for heaven, "tuned" to sing God's grace? Only if God steps in and tunes it for him, binds it to himself, seals it for heaven.
So maybe Robinson didn't speak in "true" theology. He DID speak in true lived theology. But let's speak more to the point: Any theology that doesn't account for the realities of life and living under God in this world is not a very "true" theology.
You want "true" or accurate theology? Be sure to include the Psalms. Or turn to this hymn. Sing it. Plead to be tuned and taught by God's grace.
Can you relate to this? Does this ring true with your life experience?