Sunday, May 05, 2019

How Sweet the Words

The “How Sweet the Words” hymn was written by Harry Presley (b. 1924). As of February 2019, he was still living near Stilwell, Oklahoma, where he was born. Roy Joseph “R.J.” Stevens (1927-2012) composed the tune. On his blog, Wayne Walker tells of the union of hymn and tune. “Harry sent me [R. J. Stevens] some religious poetry nearly thirty-five to forty years ago. He lived in a small town in Oklahoma and preached for the church in that community. I never met him and I haven’t been in touch with him since then. As you know, I put some of his poems to music.” The text is 8s.7s. meter, with a chorus or refrain of the same meter. 

1. How sweet the words that fill my ears,
The everlasting message,
Unchanged throughout the passing years,
Replete with every blessing.

2. Still new the scenes they now unfold
With every revelation;
Such love that man may now behold
God’s power unto salvation.

3. The tide of life forever flows
Within the holy pages;
Abiding still, their message grows
More precious through the ages.

Chorus (after each stanza):
They tell of God’s unceasing grace
To every Christian duty;
By faith we look upon His face
Within their sacred beauty.

The song may be found in Hymns for Worship (Dane K. Shepard and R. J. Stevens, editors, Kemp, TX: Shepard-Stevens Music, Inc., 1987). I am not aware that it is printed elsewhere. Both author and composer are part of the Alexander Campbell Restoration Movement, which differs widely from Baptists on certain doctrinal issues. Nevertheless, the hymn extols the word of God as the everlasting, unchanging, powerful, living revelation of God. It does not appear to me to be inconsistent with conservative Baptist views on the inspired word of God. “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103).”

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