Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive – Text: Rosamond Eleanor Herklots (1905-1987) / Music: Mel. Charles Wesley (1757-1834); harm. Martin Shaw (1875-1958)
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This Sunday’s entrance hymn in church, Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive, had its beginnings in a garden. The author, Rosamond Eleanor Herklots (1905-1987), was digging out weeds in her nephew’s garden. When she realized how deeply-rooted they were and how injurious to the flowers, it occurred to her that they resembled our resentments, and our bitterness and hate that stunt the soul and poison mind and heart. Too many hymns of forgiveness and confession never seem to advance very far beyond this starting point. The strength of this one is that it rises above the level of the recognition and confession of sin to the peace of full restoration.
In the fine recording of this hymn by the Wakefield Cathedral Choir (link above), the tune Epworth is used. This is the tune to which this hymn is set in The New English Hymnal. At St. James’ we sing this hymn to the tune Detroit, to which this hymn is sung in most hymnals. This melody appeared anonymously in the supplement to Kentucky Harmony 1820. Both Virginia Harmony 1831 and Southern Harmony 1835 credit it to a person known only as Bradshaw. The tune bears some similarity to an English folksong collected by Cecil Sharp in the Appalachian Mountains and known as “The Wife of Usher’s Well.”
Forgive our sins as we forgive,
you taught us, Lord, to pray;
but you alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.
How can your pardon reach and bless
the unforgiving heart
that broods on wrongs, and will not let
old bitterness depart?
In blazing light your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts are owed to us,
how great our debt to you!
Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls
and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all in bonds of love,
our lives will spread your peace.