I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms
Welcome back to Worship Wednesday, where we now highlight the best of worship music that doesn’t get enough attention. Perhaps the above lyrics are making you wonder about that commitment. Give them a contemporary beat, and they will sound positively Hillsongian with a sprinkling of Harry Potter magic dust!
There’s a reason for that.
As it turns out, the original author of “Come Ye Sinners,” Joseph Hart, did not write that chorus. As Indelible Grace Music explains on their page, the modified chorus came in the wake of the Second Great Awakening, the movement for which we know Charles Finney among others. Let me process that down. The original words of Come Ye Sinners were too Calvinistic, too reliant upon the sovereignty of God for their tastes.
Just to keep it short, I’ll stick to verse 4 to explain the effect of the Second Great Awakening revision.
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requires
Is to feel your need of Him.
The response of the Finneyites to this truth is to arise to receive a big hug and a sprinkling of pixie dust. But Joseph Hart says:
This He gives you, this He gives you,
‘Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.
The focus remains on God because saving sinners is the work of God, and God alone!
In terms of corporate worship, the melody of “Come Ye Sinners” is especially eligible for modernization because virtually nobody knows the original melody without the Finnyesque refrain. Matthew Smith has done that work well. Smith’s version does well as an opening song in contemporary worship settings.