Essay / Theology

“My Son, Give Me Thy Heart” (J. H. Sammis)

To thee, who from the narrow road
In sinful ways so long hast trod,
How kindly speaks thy Father, God,
“My son, give Me thy heart.”

“My son!” O word of mighty grace,
That children of our mortal race,
With sons of God may take their place —
“My son, give Me thy heart.”

How great that Father’s love must be,
How fond his yearnings after thee,
That he should say so tenderly,
“My son, give Me thy heart.”

How patient hath His Spirit been,
To follow thee through all thy sin,
And plead thy wayward soul to win,
“My son, give Me thy heart.”

— J. H. Sammis (1846-1919)

Best known for writing the hymn Trust and Obey, Presbyterian pastor John Sammis spent the last decade of his life at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, teaching and editing The King’s Business. He wrote a lot of hymns and poems, mostly forgettable and forgotten. But this one stands out as an especially sensitive treatment of the biblical truth that even in our fallenness and estrangement from God, we are all his offspring.

If you say that the wrong way, you veer right off into the wooly liberalism of the FOGBOM theology –Fatherhood of God, Brotherhood of Man– that denies the gravity of sin and can’t comprehend the biblical message of costly, adoptive sonship in Christ. But J. H. Sammis was in no danger of drifting that way. He would have gladly set his alarm clock an hour early to get up and write scathing anti-modernist editorials. No FOGBOM here, just a recognition that God the Father calls sons to communion.

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