Tuesday Hymns: “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove”

In our “Bob, the Builder” world, we like to cry out, “Can we do it? Yes, we can.” However, our Tuesday Hymn for this week, “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove,” is a reminder to us that our salvation comes to us by grace alone and not because of any merit of our own. Isaac Watts writes of our “cold hearts,” our “trifling toys,” and our “formal songs;” and our need of God’s Holy Spirit to “kindle a flame,” to “quicken our hearts” (quicken means to make alive), and to have His love “kindle ours.”

The message of this hymn (and the Holy Scriptures) is that we are only able to love Him “because He first loved us.” Before anyone will ever desire to trust in Christ, God’s Holy Spirit must first take his heart that is “dead in trespasses and sins,” and bring it to life. As Paul says in the Book of Ephesians:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9)

When one looks at the actor in those nine verses, it is not man, but God. God was merciful, God loved us, God made us alive, God raised us, and God seated us in heavenly places. It is “by grace [we] have been saved through faith…it [all] is the gift of God.”

Watts’ hymn is a cry to God’s Holy Spirit to “kindle a flame of sacred love in these cold hearts of ours.” It is sung to John B. Dykes’ tune, ST. AGNES.

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning powers;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.

Look how we grovel here below,
Fond of these trifling toys;
Our souls can neither fly nor go
To reach eternal joys.

In vain we tune our formal songs,
In vain we strive to rise;
Hosannas languish on our tongues,
And our devotion dies.

Dear Lord! and shall we ever live
At this poor dying rate?
Our love so faint, so cold to Thee,
And Thine to us so great!

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning powers;
Come, shed abroad the Savior’s love
And that shall kindle ours.


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