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April 23, 2021

O God, Be Merciful To Me!

I am reading The Methodist Hymn Book with Tunes that I had purchased before I came to Honduras. The book was published in 1933 by the Methodist Publishing House of England. The hymnal has 984 hymns and then additional music to sing the Psalms. I started reading it as part of my devotional life on the recommendation of Dr. Matt Friedeman, who teaches at Wesley Biblical Seminary.

In this hymn, which I read as a poem, the writer is aware of his sinfulness, and the guilt weighs so heavy on him that he is in agony. Most people do not know the feeling of the anguish of Rev. Elven; they look at their lives and conclude, they are not so bad. Rev. Elven was a Baptist Pastor for fifty years in Suffolk, England, and I imagine his church, his neighbors, and his family thought that he was a good man. Why all this need for mercy from God? Rev Elven knew we are not to compare ourselves to other humans but the holiness of God, the purity of God, the goodness of God. When our lives are compared to God, we are all in need of mercy. The great joy is mercy is always given.

I feel in need of God’s mercy and these words while painful was so enriching for my soul.

Read what Rev Elven wrote.

1 With broken heart and contrite sigh
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry:
Thy pardoning grace is rich and free
O God, be merciful to me.

2 I smite upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscience guilt oppressed;
Christ and His cross my only plea:
O God, be merciful to me.

3 Far off I stand with tearful eyes,
Nor dare uplift them to the skies;
But Thou dost all my anguish see:
O God, be merciful to me.

4 Nor alms, nor deeds that I have done,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee:
O God, be merciful to me.

5 And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed throng I dwell,
My raptured song shall ever be,
God has been merciful to me.

Cornelius Elven 1797-1873. https://hymnary.org/text/with_broken_heart_and_contrite_sigh