Tuesday Hymns: “God, Be Merciful to Me”

By the end of the nineteenth century the congregational singing of the Psalms in corporate worship was in a state of decline in American churches. The United Presbyterians attempted to reverse that trend in 1871 by publishing its Book of Psalms. According to Terry Johnson, “It [The Book of Psalms] provided the foundation for The Psalter of 1912, largely the 1871 book, but a collaborative work of nine churches of the Presbyterian-Reformed family in the United States and Canada, who after 50 years of decline were beginning again to see the value of singing Psalms.” (For an excellent short history of the singing of Psalms click here.)

Our Tuesday Hymn is a collation of the 51st Psalm from The Psalter, 1912, entitled, God, Be Merciful to Me. In a world which wallows in “I’m okay, you’re okay” thought, this hymn presents a Biblical understanding of man’s sin, and our need for the manifold mercy of God in our lives. It is sung to the tune READHEAD 76 (no, not Lucille Ball, but Richard Redhead, an organist and writer of hymn tunes in the nineteenth century).

God, be merciful to me, on Thy grace I rest my plea; plenteous in compassion Thou, blot out my transgressions now; wash me, make me pure within, cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.

My transgressions I confess, grief and guilt my soul oppress; I have sinned against Thy grace and provoked Thee to Thy face; I confess Thy judgment just, speechless, I Thy mercy trust.

I am evil, born in sin; Thou desirest truth within. Thou alone my Savior art, teach Thy wisdom to my heart; make me pure, Thy grace bestow, wash me whiter than the snow.

Broken, humbled to the dust by Thy wrath and judgment just, let my contrite heart rejoice and in gladness hear Thy voice; from my sins O hide Thy face, blot them out in boundless grace.

Gracious God, my heart renew, make my spirit right and true; cast me not away from Thee, let Thy Spirit dwell in me; Thy salvation’s joy impart, steadfast make my willing heart.

Sinners then shall learn from me and return O God, to Thee; Savior, all my guilt remove, and my tongue shall sing Thy love; touch my silent lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall praise accord.


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