I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat. Exodus 25:22
Words: Hugh Stowell, in The Winter’s Wreath, a Collection of Original Contributions in Prose and Verse, 1828. Stowell rewrote & republished the words in 1831.
Music: Retreat Thomas Hastings, 1842 (🔊 pdf nwc).
[This hymn] has been sung through the decades by Christian people amidst varying degrees of trial and difficulty…but never has it been sung with more dramatic meaning than when in 1857 the eight American missionaries, the Rev. Albert Johnson, John E. Freeman, David E. Campbell, John McMullen and their wives sung in Cawnpore [now Kanpur], India, just before they and the two Campbell children suffered the death of Christian martyrs by order of the blood-thirsty Nana Sahib.
Stowell’s son once wrote that his father’s death illustrated Montgomery’s lines,
His watchword at the gates of death
He enters heaven by prayer.
My father’s last utterances,he added,abundantly showed his love of and delight in prayer. Almost every word was prayer…The morning of his death the only articulate words that we could catch, uttered two or three hours before his decease, wereAmen! Amen!
Price, p. 31
From every stormy wind that blows,
From every swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat;
’Tis found beneath the mercy seat.
There is a place where Jesus sheds
The oil of gladness on our heads;
A place than all besides more sweet;
It is the blood bought mercy seat.
There is a scene where spirits blend,
Where friend holds fellowship with friend;
Though sundered far, by faith they meet
Around one common mercy seat.
Ah, whither could we flee for aid,
When tempted, desolate, dismayed,
Or how the hosts of hell defeat,
Had suffering saints no mercy-seat?
There, there, on eagles’ wings we soar,
And time and sense seem all no more;
And heaven comes down, our souls to greet,
And glory crowns the mercy seat.
Oh, let my hand forget her skill,
My tongue be silent, cold, and still,
This bounding heart forget to beat,
If I forget the mercy seat!