I am no song leader, but whenever I get the opportunity to lead the Lord’s people in praise I lead this beautiful hymn. It is one of my favorites and I am sure a favorite of many others. The lyrics of this song were written by James Rowe in 1912 and the music composed by Howard E. Smith. It is said that the two worked in tandem, Rowe writing a verse and Mr. Smith following with a piece of music for it. According to musicologist, the hymn is analogous with two passages of scripture Matthew 8:23-27 where the Lord helped a sinking Peter from the stormy waters and Mark 4:35-41 when Jesus calmed the squally seas. Mr. Rowe used these passages to illustrate some beautiful thoughts about Salvation. As with many other songs the exact intent alludes us but allow me to share my thoughts about these verses.
The first stanza mentions two things. 1) A Recognition of a Serious Condition. I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore, very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more. When I was a child I nearly drowned at a local swimming pool. Me, who could not swim at the time decided to jump into the deep-end of the pool. I sank like a rock. I remember the incident vividly, gasping for air, unable to pull myself up, sinking deeper and deeper. When I thought I was a goner I felt a hand around me and I was pulled to the surface. A nearby man saw me and rescued me. Terrifying as this may have been, what Mr. Rowe describes in this stanza is far worse. It was not water into which he was sinking it was sin. He was far from any type of redemption (peaceful shore). He was sinking towards the second death (sinking to rise no more) the same death that Romans 6:23 and Revelation 21:8 describe. There is a saying that goes “admittance is the first step to recovery.” This is true in many cases but especially when it comes to sin. To be saved from the dreaded waters of sin one must first recognize that he/she is drowning in sin. The first stanza portrays someone who was keenly aware of his sinful state. His heart was stained by the mire of sin and in and of himself he had no hope of salvation. 2) A Rescue from Certain Destruction. But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry, From the waters lifted me, now safe am I. No matter how far from the peaceful shore you may think you are, the Master of the sea is always close by (Acts 17:27). When Adam and Eve brought sin into this world the Lord could hear the cry of every soul that would ever walk this earth. Barring Jesus, everyone at some point in their lives would be sinking in sin. The Master of the Sea was already prepared before the groans of sinful man could be heard in this world (Ephesians 3:10-11 & 1 Peter 1:18-20). He did more than just hear our despairing cry, by His sacrifice He made it possible for us to be lifted from the treacherous waters of sin. Without the Lord, destruction is certain. We simply cannot rescue ourselves from the waters of sin.
The second stanza naturally follows the events of the first. Because of the great salvation provided by God, Mr. Rowe says he is, Resolute in His Devotion. All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing, love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs, Faithful, loving service too, to Him belongs. Comparable to the one leper who returned to the Lord to give Him glory and honor for his physical restoration (Luke 17:15) this verse mentions the same practice for spiritual restoration. Complete and utter devotion is intimated in this verse. All his heart belongs to the Lord, evermore he will be with the Lord and only the best his soul has to offer will be presented to the Lord. The offering of self is not to merit salvation it is gratitude shown for salvation. In view of our helpless disposition and the exclusivity of the Lord’s sacrifice, offering our lives to Him is the least we can do. If we lived a thousand lifetimes and offered each one of them completely to the Lord, it would still be insufficient gratitude. There is no meriting what we have received only submitting because we have received. The Lord demands and deserves our soul’s best songs (Cf. Malachi 1:8 & Mathew 16:24).
In the final stanza, there is a Relaying of the Lord’s Salvation. Souls in danger look above, Jesus completely saves, He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves. He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey, He your Savior wants to be, be saved today. What shall we do now that we have obtained such a great salvation? What did the writer of the song do? He relayed the message of salvation. There are many who are currently sinking in sin, many who are yearning for redemption. Someone needs to tell them about the Master of the sea and that someone is you and I. We cannot simply sing this last verse from the pew, we must preach it to the people (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:5-16). When we fail in doing so it could be that we are no longer grateful for what we have received maybe we have forgotten how serious sin is or could it be we are only concerned with our own salvation. I hope none of this is true for the reader. Indeed, There’s a message true and glad, For the sinful and the sad, Ring it out, ring it out; It will give them courage new It will help them to be true; Ring it out, ring it out. Love lifted us out of sin, may it now lift us up out of the pew and into the world. I hope this article will help all of us to sing with the spirit and understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15)
Hymn Story: Love Lifted Me on dianaleaghmatthews.com
Love Lifted Me on umcdiscipleship.org
Love Lifted Me on timetosing.ca
Love Lifted Me on revivalsounds.com
Ring out the Message by James Rowe on Hymnary.com
Robert, Morgan. “Love Lifted Me.” Then Sings My Soul. Keepsake Edition. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2011. p.541. Print.