June 2, 2020

Nettleton

Gert van Hoef, b. 1994
One of the nice things about sheltering in place over the last 2+ months has been the home concerts performed by Gert van Hoef. Gert is a young Dutch organist who's been publishing videos of his concerts on YouTube since he was a teenager—most of them from venerable old organs in ancient churches across the Netherlands. But since the pandemic began, he's been performing from his home in a town called Barneveld. I'm sure it's been difficult for him, since I assume most of his income must come from his in-person performances, so I always send him a small donation when I "attend" one of his concerts. A couple of weeks ago, I included a note with my donation, suggesting he check out a hymn tune called Nettleton, known to most of us as Come, Thou Fount. We don't know who wrote this tune, but it first appeared in John Wyeth's Repository of Sacred Music (1813).

I didn't actually expect much when I wrote the note, but in his last concert, I was surprised to hear him play a magnificent improvisation on the tune I'd suggested. I'm not so vain as to think he actually chose that tune because I'd suggested it. But you have to admit it was certainly a coïncidence, since I doubt they sing this hymn in Holland.

Anyway, here's Gert's latest concert, and you can hear Come, Thou Fount beginning at 17.16...
Here are the words of the hymn, written by Robert Robinson for Pentecost 1758.

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 thy redeeming love.

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.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely face;
clothèd then in blood-washed linen
how I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
take my ransomed soul away;
send thine angels now to carry
me to realms of endless day.

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, 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.

*Ebenezer was a stone set up by Samuel to remind Israel that God had helped them [See 1 Sam. 7]. This word is often changed in modern hymnals.
†Though this hymn is found in most American hymnals, the third stanza above is little known and is seldom included with the other three. Its theology, however, is impeccable, and I find it quite beautiful.

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