The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich. Proverbs 10:22
In its present form this hymn was wrought out of a bitter experience in the life of Sir Walter Shirley, who was at the time Rector of Loughrea in the County of Galway, Ireland.
His brother, the Earl of Ferrars, a man of evil habits, engaged in a quarrel with one of his servants, who had long been in his employ, and in the passion of his anger he murdered the old man. He was at once imprisoned; and Shirley, though mortified by the terrible disgrace which the revolting crime had brought upon his family, journeyed to his brother’s prison and remained near him during the distressing weeks that followed.
The Earl was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn. After the execution Shirley, worn out by his long vigil and humiliated in spirit, returning to his parish, finding comfort only in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Discovering an imperfect expression of his emotions at that time in a hymn, O How Happy Are the Moments, by the Rev. James Allen, he adapted and revised the hymn so completely that it became practically a new composition, truly poetic in language and form, and tenderly eloquent of his own experience.
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Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the cross we spend,
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinner’s dying Friend.
Here I stay, forever viewing
Mercy streaming in His blood;
Precious drops, my soul bedewing,
Plead and claim my peace with God.
Truly blessèd is the station,
Low before His cross to lie,
While I see divine compassion
Floating in His languid eye.
Here we find our hope of Heaven,
While upon the Lamb we gaze;
Loving much, and much forgiven,
Let our hearts o’erflow with praise.
Oh, that, near the cross abiding,
We may to the Savior cleave,
Naught with Him our hearts dividing,
All for Him content to leave!
Lord, in ceaseless contemplation
Fix our hearts and eyes on Thee,
Till we taste Thy full salvation,
And unveiled Thy glories see.
For Thy sorrows we adore Thee,
For the griefs that wrought our peace;
Gracious Savior, we implore Thee,
In our hearts Thy love increase.