Music for Pentecost 14, Sunday September 11, 2022

O Jesus, I Have Promised – Text: John Ernest Bode (1816-1874) / Music: William Harold Ferguson (1874-1950)


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John Ernest Bode wrote this morning’s final hymn c. 1866, in six stanzas of eight lines, on the occasion of the confirmation of his daughter and two sons. He entitled it A Hymn for the Newly Confirmed and appended to it the text Luke 9:57. Both of our hymnals omit two verses of Bode’s original six. Throughout the prayer the dominant motif is dedication, and the focus centres on the word “servant.” Poet, preacher, and scholar, a true “emissary of the tidy mind”, Bode was immersed in literary pursuits. His poetical works include Ballads from Herodotus 1855, Short Occasional Poems 1858, and Hymns from the Gospel of the Day 1860.

Wolvercote was composed to these words by William Harold Ferguson when he was director of music at Lancing College, England. First printed anonymously in The Public School Hymn Book 1919, it has gradually replaced all other tunes for Bode’s text. Wolvercote is the name of a northern suburb of Oxford.

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
Be thou for ever 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.

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.

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.

O let me see thy footmarks,
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 Saviour and my Friend.

Gerald Harder