O Love, that wilt not let me go

1
O Love, that wilt 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.
2
O Light, that followest all my way,
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.
3
O Joy, that seekest me through pain,
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.
4
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.

The author was inspired to write this hymn in 5 minutes during a time of distress.

40
Ana Lara

United States

This is one of the most loved hymns of the latter part of the nineteenth century. The writing of the text is remarkable considering the author was completely blind and describes the writing as the “fruit of much suffering. ”

George Matheson was born in Glasgow, Scotland, March 27, 1842. As a boy he had partial vision and after he began attending Glasgow University, he became totally blind at age eighteen. He graduated from Glasgow and finished the Seminary of the Church of Scotland with high honors despite having this handicap. In 1886 he became the pastor of the St. Bernard’s Parish Church in Edinburg which had 2, 000 members. He became one of Scotland’s renowned preachers loved by the people of Edinburgh and who attracted large crowds. Although Matheson never married, he was assisted by his beloved sister. She even learned Greek, Latin and Hebrew in order to help him out in his study of theology. She also became his co-worker in helping him in his pastoral duties.

There’s a popular account on why George Matheson wrote this text. His fiancée left him before their marriage when she found out he would soon be totally blind. There are some phrases in the hymn reflecting a broken heart such as “flickering torch” and “borrowed ray” in the second stanza and the tracing of the “rainbow through the rain” in the third stanza and finally “cross” in the last verse.

Dr. Matheson did leave an account of his writing of this hymn:

“My hymn was composed in the manse of Innellan on the evening of June 6th, 1882. I was at the time alone. It was the day 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 rather of having it dictated to me by some inward voice 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 one came like a dayspring from on high. I have never been able to gain once more the same fervor in verse. ”

The hymn appeared in the Church of Scotland monthly magazine, ”Life and Work, ” in January, 1883. The tune was composed one year later by a well-known Scottish organist of his day, Albert L. Peace, who was asked by the Scottish Hymnal Committee to write a tune especially for Matheson’s text. Peace’s own account of the writing of this tune is as follows, “After reading it over carefully, I wrote the music straight off, and may say that the ink of the first note was hardly dry when I had finished the tune. ”

The significance of the tune’s name, “St. Margaret, ” is because of Queen Margaret, who was canonized in 1251.

In the last years of his life, Matheson spent them writing some of the finest devotional literature in the English language such as “Moments on the Mount, ” “Voice of the Spirit, ” and “Rests by the River”. This is the only hymn found in most hymnals but he wrote a number of spiritual hymns such as “Make Me a Captive Lord, ” and “Then I Shall be Free. ”

The four key words of “O Love That Wilt Nor Let Me Go” are Love, Light, Joy, and Cross. The words are the total fulfillment of a believer’s subjective experience for those who have consecrated themselves to the will of God.


Cody Enderli

Anaheim, CA, United States

I rest my weary soul in Thee

I give Thee back the life I owe

My life is not my own. Lord, help me never forget this. Praise you for your mercy that you have granted me a vision. I long to know more of you.

Take my life and use it to your desire and for your purpose.


Gill Thompson

York, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

I love this hymn, so much that I want it sung at my funeral. I have been disabled and in pain since childhood (I am now 71) and the third verse in particular has kept me going over the years - the thought that when I go to be with the Lord there will be no more pain or tears.


John Buckley

Gilingham, Kent, United Kingdom

Like many hymns this is very moving and of course so true.


Debbie

Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas

One of my favorites; the story of its origin is most intriguing.


Dayo Otolorin

Philadelphia, PA, United States

Thank You, Lord for being my Joy that seekest me through pain. Praise Your Holy Name!


Ana Lara

Tolland, Connecticut, United States

This hymn was written on the evening of George Matheson’s sister’s marriage. Years before he had been engaged until his fiancée learned he was going blind and that there was nothing the doctors could do. She told him she could not go through life with a blind man.

He went blind while studying for the ministry and his sister had been the one to care for him but now she was going away to be married. He was now 40 years old and his sister’s marriage was a fresh reminder of his own heart break. It was in the midst of these circumstances and intense sadness that the Lord gave Matheson this hymn which he said was written in five minutes.


Paulina Smith

Las Vegas, NV, United States

"I cannot close my heart to Thee." This is the song on my heart today as I study.


L.C.

Charlotte, NC, United States

I always love singing this song when I’m distressed by situations of the world. “Lord guide us, and never let us go. Lord I give myself to thee! ” “Lord be with the married couples, and communication/positions in the church... ”


Yuri

Lord thank You only Your love does not let us go! Hallelujah! Jesus is King!