This hymn is very valuable in describing for us just what our baptisms signify. Until we really learn what it means to be a child of the God of the Covenant of Grace, our Christian walk will be dull and lusterless, not filled with the joy of the Lord. Because this hymn so beautifully describes what it is to be in true covenant with God, I wanted to share it with you all today.
I found this powerful hymn a few summers ago when it was one of the songs I was practicing for the next week’s church service. It struck me immediately as as beautiful description of what ought to be the true response of a Christian when considering what it means to take the name of the Trinue God in baptism. I was also drawn to the flowing seventeenth century tune with which it is paired in the green Trinity Hymnal. Even though the words were written in the eighteenth century, it seems to me that when they are put together with this tune, this song has the strong sound of the hymns of the Reformation.
Baptized into your name most holy,
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
I claim a place, though weak and lowly,
Among your seed, your chosen host.
Buried with Christ and dead to sin:
Your Spirit e’er shall live within.
My loving Father, me you’ve taken
Fore’er to be your child and heir;
My faithful Savior, me you’ve given
Your righteous, holy life to share;
O Holy Spirit, you will be
A comfort, guide, and help to me.
And I have vowed to fear and love you,
And to obey you, Lord, alone;
Because the Holy Spirit moved me,
I dared to pledge myself your own,
Renouncing sin to keep the faith
And war with evil unto death.
My faithful God, your Word fails never,
Your cov’nant surely will abide;
Oh, cast me not away forever,
Should I transgress it on my side!
Though I have oft my soul defiled,
In love forgive, restore your child.
Yes, all I am and love most dearly
I offer now, O Lord, to you.
Oh, let me make my vows sincerely,
And what I say, help me to do.
Let naught within me, naught I own,
Serve any will but yours alone.
And never let my purpose falter,
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
But keep me faithful to your altar,
Til you shall call me from my post.
So unto you I live and die
And praise you evermore on high.
Johann J. Rambach, 1723
Tr. By Catherine Winkworth, 1863
Rev. in Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978; alt. 1990
Tune NEUMARK 18.104.22.168.8.8.
Georg Neumark, 1657
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? ~Romans 6:16
You are that one’s slave to whom you present yourself to obey. What is prayer but presenting yourself to obey someone?
Essentially, prayer is submission. The spirit of true prayer, in the biblical sense, is that of submission to the Creator God. Prayer is an vital part of worshipping God in our spirits. Your head can bow, your eyes can close, your tongue can speak–but if your heart is not bowing down in humility before God, you are not worshipping nor are you actually praying. Worship of God–and thus prayer, also–is not determined by one’s situation in time and space; it is determined only by the attitude of one’s spirit.
It is the one before whom we bow in true heart-humility that we shall serve. Do we honestly worship God in our spirits when we pray? Do we actually lift our praises to God in submission to his perfect will? Do we bend our thoughts to honestly desire and delight in holiness? Or do we withhold our hearts from him and act with lipservice towards the one who bought us?
One way to check ourselves to see whether or not our hearts are in submission to the Father of spirits is to look at our prayers. It may well be that we discover that our thoughts always wander off to serve another master even while our lips are towards the only true Lord–or it may be that we find our hearts more often concurring with the psalmist; “Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word!” (Psalm 199:169)
We Lift Up as Our Shield God’s Name
1. We lift up as our shield God’s name, the strong name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same: the Three in One and One in Three, our Rock and Tower, God of Light, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word; we claim the name of grace and might; salvation is of Christ the Lord.
2. Immanuel, incarnate Lord, from Mary’s womb was given breath, was baptized at the Jordan’s ford, and gave his life to conquer death. He rose triumphant from the tomb, was lifted to the Father’s throne to come on God’s dread day of doom and bring salvation for his own.
3. By faith we claim his grace today: the power of God to hold and lead, his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to hearken to our need; the wisdom of our God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward, the word of God to give us speech, his heav’nly host to be our guard.
What a wonderful summation of orthodoxy! And to be able to sing it to such a strong tune! Strong hymnody is a thing much lacking in modern Christianity. One of the things that I have noticed and particularly like about the very old hymns and tunes (like the ones mentioned today, dating from approximately the 5th century) is that they often focus on God as Triune just as much as on Jesus as Savior. There is a triumphant, joyful, full, and reverent spirit in them that is sometimes played down in more contemporary hymnody (which, I guess, would be those dating from the nineteenth century, since hymnody (as opposed to the plethora of “campfire songs” or “Jesus is my boyfriend” type of “spiritual songs”) has not made great inroads in the past century).
The more I play out of the hymnal, the more I am aware of the depth of truth in the hymns that we often forget to make use of. Though I once was leaning towards exclusive psalmody, my experiences in a church of that stripe and fuller exposure to the hymns caused me cease leaning that direction. There is much room in everyday life, as well as in the worship service, for following the apostle’s admonition (given in a day-to-day context) to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, “singing pslams and hymns and spiritual songs” with thanksgiving and praise to God (Colossians 3:16). May we take advantage of this heritage handed down to us from our forefathers in the faith.