Awake the Sacred Song offers fresh musical settings of some of Anne Steele's hymns in order to present them again to the worshipping church. Anne Steele's texts express both deep faith and honesty. She conveys the human experience of simultaneous belief and uncertainty, reminding us of the common experience of Christians throughout the centuries.
Anne Steele was born in 1717 in Hampshire into a wealthy merchant family. Her father was a Baptist minister and timber merchant. Her mother died when Anne was three, and it is likely that she died giving birth to Anne's younger brother, who died shortly thereafter. Her father remarried and she grew up with her older brother, a step-mother and step-sister. It appears from letters and diaries that this blended family was close and affectionate. Anne also enjoyed significant relationships with extended family and with various prominent Baptist figures. She experienced much loss in her life, from the early loss of her mother and brother, to members of her extended family and step-mother, and later, her father. Anne also suffered with poor health and thus experienced many occasions of being confined to her home or even to her room. In a time when the lives of women were mostly confined to the home, she dealt with the added limitation of poor health.
In 1760, Anne Steele published a two-volume work entitled Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional, by Theodosia. Two years following her death, in 1780 it was republished with a third volume. In 1787, John Rippon published A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors in which there are 588 hymns: thirty-nine of the chosen hymns were by Isaac Watts and fifty-three by Anne Steele. In 1804, a Boston publisher released her previously published work in a two-volume set. Her popularity in England and the United States continued into the late nineteenth century. Unfortunately, during the next several decades her hymns were to wane in popularity. It is difficult to find Steele's hymns in modern hymnals, with the exception of "Father of Mercies In Thy Word" and "Father, Whate'er of Earthly Bliss."
- Praise to the Redeemer
To our Redeemer's glorious Name
Awake the sacred song:
O may His love - immortal flame -
Tune every heart and tongue.
His love, what mortal tongue can reach?
What mortal tongue display?
Imagination's utmost stretch
In wonder dies away.
+Jesus, the Lamb Who was slain.
Jesus, You are worthy to be praised!
Let wonder still with love unite,
And gratitude and joy;
Be Jesus our supreme delight,
His praise our best employ.
Our Lord,* who left His throne on high,
Left the bright realms of bliss,
And came on earth to bleed and die -
Was ever love like this?
*Originally "Jesus" which did not fit the text stress, and was also redundant with the addition of the refrain. +Added refrain.
- Come Ye that Love the Saviour's Name
Come ye that love the Saviour's Name
And joy to make it known;
The sov'reign of your heart proclaim,
And bow before His throne.
Behold your King, your Saviour crowned
With glories all divine;
And tell the wond'ring nations round
How bright those glories shine.
+Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
When in His earthly courts we view
The glories of our King;
We long to love as angels do,
And wish like them to sing.
And shall we long and wish in vain?
Lord, teach our songs to rise!
Thy love can animate the strain,
And bid it reach the skies.
+ Refrain added.
- The Goodness of God
Ye humble souls, approach your God
With songs of sacred praise,
For He is good, immensely good,
And kind are all His ways.
All nature owns His guardian care,
In Him we live and move;
But nobler benefits declare
The wonders of His love.
He gave His Son, His only Son,
To ransom rebel ones;*
'Tis here He makes His goodness known
In its diviner forms.
To this dear refuge, Lord, we come;
'Tis here our hope relies;
A safe defense, a peaceful home,
When storms of trouble rise.
Thine eye beholds, with kind regard,
The souls who trust in Thee;
Their humble hope Thou wilt reward,
With bliss divinely free.
- Hope in Darkness
God is my sun, his blissful rays
Irradiate, warm, and guide my heart!
How dark, how mournful are my days
If his enlivening beams depart.
Scarce through the shades, a glimpse of day
Appears to these desiring eyes!
But shall my drooping spirit say,
The cheerful morn will never rise?
O let me not despairing mourn,
Though gloomy darkness spreads the sky;
My glorious sun will yet return,
And night with all its horrors fly.
Hope in the absence of my Lord
Shall be my taper; sacred light,
Kindled at his celestial word,
To cheer the melancholy night.
O for the bright, the joyful day
When hope shall in assurance die!
So tapers lose their feeble ray,
Beneath the sun's renewing* eye.
* Originally "refulgent".
- Longing for God's Presence
My God, to thee I call
Must I forever mourn?
So far from thee, my life, my all?
O when wilt thou return!
Dark as shades of night
My gloomy sorrows rise,
And hide thy soul-reviving light
From these desiring eyes.
My comforts all decay,
My inward foes prevail;
If thou withhold thy healing ray,
Expiring hope will fail.
Away distressing fears,
My gracious God is nigh,
And heav'nly pity sees my tears,
And marks each rising sigh.
Dear source of all my joys,
And solace of my care,
O wilt thou hear my plaintive voice
And grant my humble prayer!
Then if my troubles rise,
To thee, my God, I'll flee,
And raise my hopes above the skies,
And cast my cares on thee.
- A Dying Saviour
Stretch'd on the cross the Saviour dies;
Hark! his expiring groans arise!
See, from his hands, his feet, his side,
Runs down the sacred crimson tide!
But life attends the deathful sound,
And flows from ev'ry bleeding wound;
The vital stream, how free it flows,
To save and cleanse his rebel foes!
To suffer in the traitor's place,
To die for us, surprizing grace!
Yet pass rebellious angels by —
"O why for them,* dear Saviour, why?"
And didst thou bleed, for sinners bleed?
And could the sun behold the deed?
No, he withdrew his sick'ning ray,
And dark-ness veil'd the mourning day.
Can I survey this scene of woe,
Where mingling grief and wonder flow;
And yet my heart unmov'd remain,
Insensible to love or pain!
Come dearest Lord, thy power impart,
To warm this cold, this stupid heart;
Till all its powers and passions move,
In melting grief and ardent love.
* Originally "man".
- At the Table
To Jesus, our exalted Lord,
(Dear name, by heaven and earth ador'd!)
Fain would our hearts and voices raise
A cheerful song of sacred praise.
+Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi.
Yet while around his board we meet,
And worship at his glorious feet;
O let our warm affections move
In glad returns of grateful love.
Yes, Lord, we love and we adore,
But long to know and love thee more;
And while we taste the bread and wine,
Desire to feed on joys divine.
Let faith our feeble senses aid,
To see thy wonderous love display'd,
And thy forgiving smiles impart
Life, hope, and joy to every heart.
+ Refrain added: "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world".
- God the Only Refuge
Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On thee, when sorrows rise:
On thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies.
While hope revives, though pressed with fears,
And I can say, my God,
Beneath thy feet I spread my cares,
And pour my woes abroad.
To thee I tell each rising grief,
For thou alone canst heal;
Thy word can bring a sweet relief
For ev'ry pain I feel.
But oh! when gloomy doubts prevail,
I fear to call thee mine;
The springs of comfort seem to fail,
And all my hopes decline.
Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust,
But still my soul would cleave to thee,
Though prostrate in the dust.
Hast thou not bid me seek thy face?
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sov'reign grace
Be deaf when I complain?
No, still the ear of sov'reign grace
Attends the mourner's prayer;
O may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there.
Thy mercy seat is open still;
Here let my soul re treat,
With humble hope attend thy will,
And wait beneath thy feet.
- Desiring to Trust
Great source of boundless pow'r and grace,
Attend my mournful cry.
In the dark hour of deep distress,
To Thee, to Thee I fly.
*O let me call Thy grace to mind,
And trust Thy glorious name;
Jehovah, pow'rful, wise, and kind,
Forever is the same.
Thou art my strength, my life, my stay,
Assist my feeble trust;
Drive these distressing fears away,
And raise me from the dust.
Here let me rest, on thee depend,
My God, my hope, my all;
Be Thou my everlasting friend,
And I can never fall.
* This verse is used as a refrain in my setting.
- Waiting for Morning
Long and mournful is the night,
Mental night of gloomy fear
Source of comfort, source of light
When, O when wilt thou appear!
Thy beams alone can bid the gloom depart,
And spread celestial morning o'er my heart
Morning of that glorious day
Which the blessed enjoy above,
Where with full, unclouded ray
Shines thy everlasting love:
Where joy triumphant fills the bright abode,
O happy world! fair paradise of God!
Sure the Lord of life is near
Though a cloud his face conceal:
Jesus, when wilt thou appear,
When thy cheering beams reveal?
When shall thy beams of soul-reviving light
Dispel this gloomy cloud this mental night?
Not in vain aspires the heart
That depends on thee alone;
Light and joy thou wilt impart,
Radiant dawn of bliss unknown.
Here let me wait beneath thy guardian wing
Till from thy smile celestial morning spring.
- In Affliction
Why is my heart with grief oppressed?
Can all the pains I feel or fear,
Make thee, my soul, forget thy rest,
Forget that God, thy God, is near?
*O may this weak, this fainting mind,
A father's hand adoring see;
Confess thee just, and wise, and kind,
And trust thy word and cling to thee.
Hast thou not often call'd the Lord
Thy refuge, thy almighty friend?
And canst thou fear to trust that word
On which thy hopes of heaven depend?
Lord, form my temper to thy will
If thou my faith and patience prove,
May every painful stroke fulfill
Thy purposes of faithful love.
* This verse is used as a refrain in my setting.
- Father of Mercies
Father of mercies, in thy word
What endless glory shines?
Forever be thy name adored
For these celestial lines.
Here may the blind and hungry come,
And light, and food receive;
Here, shall the humble* guest have room,
And taste, and see, and live.
Here, springs of consolation rise,
To cheer the fainting mind;
And thirsty souls receive supplies,
And sweet refreshment find.
Here, the Redeemer's welcome voice,
Spreads heav'nly peace around;
And life, and everlasting joys
Attend the blissful sound.
O may these heav'n ly pages be
My ever dear delight,
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light.
Divine instructor, gracious Lord,
Be thou forever near,
Teach me to love thy sacred word,
And view my Saviour there.
* Originally "meanest".
- The Great Physician
Ye mourning sinners, here disclose
Your deep complaints, your various woes;
Approach, tis Jesus, he can heal
The pains which mourning sinners feel.
To eyes long clos'd in mental night,
Strangers to all the joys of light,
His word imparts a blissful ray:
Sweet morning of celestial day!
*Ye helpless lame, lift up your eyes,
The Lord, the Saviour bids you rise;
New life and strength his voice conveys,
And plaintive groans are chang'd for praise.
Nor shall the leper, hopeless lie
Beneath the Great Physician's eye;
Sin's deepest power his word controls,
That fatal leprosy of souls.
That hand divine, which can assuage
The burning fever's restless rage;
That hand, omnipotent and kind,
Can cool the fever of the mind.
When spreading illness+ chills the veins,
And pale, cold death, already reigns,
He speaks; the vital powers revive:
He speaks, and dying sinners live.
Dear Lord, we wait thy healing hand;
Diseases fly at thy command;
O let thy sovereign touch impart
Life, strength, and health to every heart!
*Then shall the sick, the blind, the lame,
Adore their Great Physician's name;
Then dying souls shall bless their God,
And spread thy wondrous praise abroad.
* These verses are used as a refrain in my setting.
+ Originally "freezing palsy".
- Christ the Life of the Soul
When sins and fears prevailing rise,
And fainting hope almost expires;
Jesus, to Thee I lift my eyes,
To Thee I breathe my soul's desires.
Art Thou not mine, my living Lord?
And can my hope, my comfort die,
Fix'd on Thy everlasting Word,
That Word which built the earth and sky?
*If my immortal Saviour lives,
Then my immortal life is sure;
His Word a firm foundation gives,
Here, let me build, and rest secure.
Here, let my faith unshaken dwell,
Immoveable the promise stands;
Nor all the powers of earth or hell,
Can e'er dissolve the sacred bands.
Here, O my soul, Thy trust repose;
If Jesus is forever mine,
Not death itself, that last of foes,
Shall break a union so divine.
* This verse is used as a refrain in my setting.
- Now to Thy Heavenly Father's Praise
Now to thy heavenly Father's praise,
My heart thy tribute bring:
That goodness which prolongs my days
With grateful pleasure sing.
Ye humble souls, who love the Lord,
Come join the pleasing theme;
His mercy, power, and truth record
And bless his glorious name.
Whene'er he sends afflicting pains,
His mercy holds the rod;
His powerful word the heart sustains,
And speaks a faithful God.
A faithful God is ever nigh
When humble grief implores;
His ear attends each plaintive sigh,
He pities and restores.
O be the life thy hand restores
Devoted to thy praise!
To thee, be sacred all my powers,
To thee, my future days!
Thy soul-enlivening grace impart,
A warmer love inspire;
And teach the breathings of my heart
Dependence and desire.
All songs Copyright © 2008 Andrea Tisher
Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada license.