January 01, 2006
328R O Pure Reformers, Not in Vain
Original Title: "O Pure Reformers, Not in Vain," John Greenleaf Whittier (1843), COVENTRY, C.M., Samuel Howard (c. 1762); New Title: same hymn title, rev. REH (2006), ST. ANNE, C.M., William Croft (1708). Whittier was an 19th Century American Quaker poet, and a well-known advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. The hymn does not appear in Singing the Living Tradition, nor in The New Century Hymnal. Though the hymn predates both his ministry and the holiday, many may find it appropriate to commemorate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. The lyrics speak most directly to Ephesians 4:11-16, which tells of prophets and teachers sent to "equip the saints" so that we might not be like children "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine." Also notable are echoes of the conflict between "lies" and "truth" in the gospel of John, see John 17:17, John 8:44.
1. O pure re-form-ers! not in vain,
your trust in hu-man-kind;
the good which blood-shed could not gain,
your peace-ful zeal shall find.
2. The truths you urge are borne a-broad
by eve-ry wind and tide;
the voice of na-ture and of God
speaks out up-on your side.
3. The wea-pons which your hands have found
are those which heaven has wrought,
light, truth, and love; your bat-tle ground,
the free, broad field of thought.
4. O may no self-ish pur-pose break
the beau-ty of your call,
no lie from throne or al-tar shake
your stead-y faith in all.
5. Press on! and if we may not share
the glo-ry of your cry,
we'll ask at least, in earn-est prayer,
that your dreams may not die. A-men.
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