A Hymn for All Seasons

A Hymn for All Seasons June 1, 2022

Young Man Singing Hymn
Ivanov/Unsplash

I love the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. When I hear it, I sometimes think of its author, Robert Robinson, who, as a fatherless teenager working to support his family, joined a negative peer group planning to heckle a popular preacher in front of a congregation. But Robert listened to the sermon and chose to repent.

In 1757, as a 22-year-old minister, he wrote this hymn of love, grace, and gratitude that worshippers of many denominations for more than 260 years have sung with inspiration and  joy, as I do.

Grace and Gratitude

This hymn begins with praise and gratitude:

Come thou fount of every blessing/ Tune my heart to sing thy grace Streams of mercy never ceasing/Call for songs of loudest praise

I’m immediately drawn in by words particularly meaningful to me: “grace” and “praise.” As an eighteenth century Protestant, Robinson’s thoughts about grace would have been different from mine, but he sang joyfully about grace, as I do. And he praised God for his grace and his mercy, as I do daily.

In addressing new Zoramite converts, Amulek advised them to “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38), similar in meaning and intent to the words of the hymn.

Russell M. Nelson extended this meaning: I am thankful for [Christ’s] loving-kindness and for His open invitation to come unto Him.” Of particular importance  (and caution) is his explanation: “Our degree of gratitude is a measure of our love for Him.”

We are told in holy scripture that “he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious” (D & C 78:19).

Prone to Wander

Amulek cautioned new converts to “be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away” (Alma 34:39). For many, the final stanza of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is the most meaningful:

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love                    Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it/Seal it for Thy courts above

These are the words of a 22-year-old, just two years after his conversion from a life rapidly moving in the opposite direction. Many have recognized this as unusually mature for Robinson’s age. He used the mild words “prone” (tendency, inclination) and “feel.”

Little is published about Robinson’s life. Writers agree that he was a highly complicated individual, who once had a devoted congregation of 1000. Though referred to as a “scholar,” he had little formal education. However, he read deeply and constantly.

As I’ve written and said often, “Worthiness is not flawlessness.” As I expanded in my book Changed Through His Grace, “Enduring to the end doesn’t mean living without errors. It means enduring in the covenant despite errors.”

If Robinson felt “prone to wander,” and even if he might have done so, I do not think less of him or his hymn. He thought realistically about risks and human weaknesses, as I do.

Sealing for Eternity

Thinking about Robert Robinson’s youth reminds me of Shiblon, a faith-filled young disciple of Christ who had a blessing Robinson did not—a father, Alma, who was a prophet of God.

Alma recognized how one could be prone to wander. He had wandered in his youth; his youngest son was wandering. So Alma reminded Shiblon that “blessed is he that endureth to the end,” adding that if he trusted God, he would be “lifted up at the last day.”

In advising Shiblon, Alma emphasized,  “Man can be saved only in and through Christ . . . the life and the light of the world.” His hope and prayer for this precious son was “may the Lord . . . receive you at the last day into his kingdom to sit down in peace” (Alma 38:2,5,9,15).

Shiblon was faithful throughout his life, including exemplary service, and missionary work. He is an effective role model for those who sing with hope and love of a heart sealed for eternal life with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, as I do.

Neal A. Maxwell, in an article titled “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” recognized that enduring is not easy, nor does it happen all at once.

Though stretched by our challenges . . . by living righteously and enduring well we can eventually become sufficiently more like Jesus in our traits and attributes  that one day we can dwell in the Father’s presence forever and ever.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminded us that eternal life is “the greatest of all the gifs of God” (D&C 14:7). He concluded that “enduring to the end is exalting and glorious . . . a joyful religion . . . of hope, strength, and deliverance.”

 

 

About Brad Wilcox
Brad Wilcox grew up in Provo, Utah, except for childhood years spent in Ethiopia, Africa. He served his mission in Chile and later returned to that country as a mission president. Brad was sustained as the second counselor in the Young Men General Presidency on April 4, 2020. He continues his career as a professor at Brigham Young University, where he delivered a devotional address “His Grace is Sufficient,” a title reflecting themes prominent in his work, as does the title of one of his many books, “The Continuous Atonement.” He enjoys reading, writing, teaching, and traveling. He and his wife, Debi, have four children and nine grandchildren. Their family has lived in New Zealand and Spain, where Brad directed study abroad programs for BYU. You can read more about the author here.

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