WHAT WONDROUS LOVE IS THIS
Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. (Deuteronomy 21:23)
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Not father or mother has loved you as God has, for it was that you might be happy He gave His only Son. When He bowed His head in the death hour, love solemnized its triumph; the sacrifice there was complete.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
This beloved hymn, with its plaintive modal sound, is one of the best known of our authentic American folk hymns. Like all true folk music, the origins of this text and music remain unknown. It is simply the product of devout people who, when reflecting seriously on the sacrificial gift of God’s Son, respond spontaneously with amazed adoration for this “wondrous love.”
One typical folk hymn characteristic found in these words is the repetition of key phrases such as “O my soul” and “I’ll sing on.” Since folk music is generally learned aurally without the assistance of the printed page or musical notation, such repetition is necessary. Note also how effectively the curving melodic lines enhance the thought and personal application of the words.
The hymn first appeared in 1835 in a collection titled William Walker’s Southern Harmony. These simply stated words with their appealing music have since ministered to people everywhere, extolling the profound truth of Christ’s love for each of us. Allow the hymn to move you to awe even now.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, to bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
When I was sinking down, sinking down, when I was sinking down, sinking down; when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul; Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.
To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing; to God and to the Lamb I will sing; to God and to the Lamb who is the great “I Am,” while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing; while millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on; and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, and through eternity I’ll sing on.
Numbers 21:8; Jeremiah 31:3; John 3:14–18; 1 John 3:1; Revelation 1:5, 6
Reflect once again on the wondrous love of Christ in your behalf. Determine to share your Lord and His wondrous love with another.