John Ernest Bode (1816-1874) was an Anglican clergyman serving a small parish near Cambridge, England, when his three children, a daughter and two sons, were ready for confirmation. Bode not only presided over their confirmation, but also wrote this hymn especially for the occasion. He told his children that "I have written a hymn concerning all the important truths I want you to remember." I imagine that his children never forgot that service and their father's concern for them and their spiritual lives. However, we have all experienced broken promises - some that our friends have broken and maybe some that we ourselves have broken. Many folks make promises to God, especially when they are in deep need, and then fail to keep them when times are better. If you heal me or if you help me escape this danger or if you help me get this new job ... I'll ... you can fill in the blanks. I have often watched folks joining our church promise things like faithfully attending services, giving regularly, or serving in some ministry. Then after they join, these promises are forgotten. It is so sad when believers do not live lives of integrity. But it is even worse to be judged by God for making a vow or promise to him and then not keeping it. Vows to God are serious business and need to be kept. This hymn serves as a hymn of commitment for every Christian. It reminds us of promises that we have probably made to Jesus. It also asks Jesus to protect us from the dangers and temptations posed by the world. And it reminds us that Jesus has made promises too, such as the promise never to leave us and that we will live with him in glory. And, unlike we humans, He is faithful and keeps all of His promises to us. And we can count on that.
(1) O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my Guide.
(2) O let me feel Thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me, around me and within;
But Jesus, draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.
(3) O let me hear Thee speaking in accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self will.
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, Thou Guardian of my soul.
(4) O Jesus, Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee
That where Thou art in glory there shall Thy servant be.
And Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend.
(5) O let me see Thy footprints, and in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly is in Thy strength alone.
O guide me, call me, draw me, uphold me to the end;
And then in Heaven receive me, my Savior and my Friend.
This has been sung to many different tunes, but the one that might be the most familiar can be heard here. LISTEN