The following article was published on the website Christ Hold Fast. It's the story of a newly composed hymn sung to a dying woman, an anchor, and the Holy of Holies. At the end of these introductory paragraphs, there is a link you can click to read the entire article. Or simply click here to begin reading at christholdfast.com. Thank you! Some of the last words our Lord spoke were addressed to a man who stood on the precipice of eternity. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” It was no time to blabber some sentimental nonsense. No occasion for chitchat. The words to a dying man must be words pregnant with life. These were. This man, who could taste the bitterness of death, swallowed the sweetness of life in these dying words to a dying man.
Edward Mote got this. When he paid a visit to the bedside of his friend’s wife, who was staring death in the face, what would he say? He would say what the Lord had given him to say earlier that day. On the way to work, he had penned a short chorus. By day’s end, he had four stanzas written on a scrap of paper folded in his pocket. His friend liked to sing hymns to his wife to comfort her, but that evening he had misplaced his hymnal. Out of his pocket Ed pulled the scrap of paper. Into this dying woman’s ears he sang,
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
And he continued to sing until he came to these words:
When darkness veils his lovely face
I rest on his unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
These stanzas were of such comfort to the man and his dying wife that he left a copy of the hymn for them—a hymn, written in 1834, that would wind up being one of the most beloved songs of the church.
If your words give hope to one who is dying, no matter how simple or how elegant they are, those words are poetry to the soul.
I wish every pastor, when he preaches to his flock, would look upon them as the thief on the cross, or as Edward Mote’s friend, and speak accordingly. Physical death may not befall them that day or that week, but death wears many a mask, and he comes calling in manifold ways. The death of a marriage. Death in addiction. The demise of hopes and dreams and friendships and careers. And in all these deaths, darkness veils Christ’s lovely face. When we need him most, he seems most absent. We are tossed about in the darkness, like a ship caught in a midnight storm, searching for him, for hope, for something stable...
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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!