Music for the Second Sunday After Epiphany — January 14, 2024

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

Click to view video on Youtube

This Sunday’s offertory hymn in church, Oh Jesus, I Have Promised, was written by John Ernest Bode 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 of Luke 9:57. Two of the six stanzas are typically omitted in current hymnals. Throughout the prayer the dominant motif is dedication, and the focus centres upon the word “servant.” Born at St Pancras, England, Bode attended Eton and graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, with an MA in 1840. He took holy orders and was all his life a poet, preacher, and scholar: a true “emissary of the tidy mind.”

The tune “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