By Walton W Spenser
Oh, the love that sought me! Oh, the blood that bought me!
Oh, the grace that brought me to the fold, Wondrous grace that brought me to the fold!
He washed the bleeding sin-wounds, And poured in oil and wine;
He whispered to assure me, ”I’ve found thee, thou art Mine:”
I never heard a sweeter voice, It made my aching heart rejoice.
He pointed to the nail-prints, For me His blood was shed;
A mocking crown so thorny, Was placed upon His head:
I wondered what He saw in me, To suffer such deep agony.
I’m sitting in His presence, The sunshine of His face,
While with adoring wonder His blessings I retrace.
It seems as if eternal days Are far too short to sound His praise.
So while the hours are passing, All now is perfect rest;
I’m waiting for the morning, The brightest and the best,
When He will call us to His side, To be with Him, His spotless Bride.
This hymn was written by a missionary who worked in Durban South Africa in the 19th centuary. His name was Walton W Spenser. About 1889, W. Spencer Walton founded The Sailor’s Rest, in the city of Durban, Natal – eastern South Africa. He ministered to the spiritual needs of seaman there. During the Boer War, he distributed Bibles to the English soldiers. Spencer Walton’s missionary work is known mainly through the books and pamphlets he wrote. He is also credited with one hymn, In Tenderness He Sought Me, published in 1894.
The first stanza of the hymn draws upon a parable the Lord Jesus told about a shepherd seeking his lost sheep (Lk. 15:3-7). The second stanza echoes the loving actions of the good Samaritan in another parable (Lk. 10:30-37). Walton applied both of these images to Christ.
Oh, the love that sought me!
Oh, the blood that bought me!
W. Spencer Walton lived his life in light of this truth. Although Walton grew up in the church, at the age of 22, he marked February 17 as his “new birthday.” The change is easily seen in his journal and he expressed his regret of 22 years of a “hypocritical and wasted life” of hoping works would save him.
With his conversion came immediate action to share the love Christ had shown him. Deeply compelled by the Bible, he spoke God’s word to the districts surrounding his home. However, his work as a broker left him longing for the day when he could broaden his mission and the “fetters of business should be broken.” He remembered, “Was not HE patient? And ought I not to be so too?” Walton proved faithful with what he had been given and his mission expanded, first to the British Isles and then to southern Africa.
Walton’s calling as a missionary found its focus in South Africa through invitation of a friend. Upon his first visit, the varied needs of the land convicted him to found the Cape General Mission, an interdenominational outpost dedicated to serving the needs of the African natives, European immigrants, and transient sailors of the region. The diverse and large area in which he ministered found him preaching everywhere from churches to mud huts, gardens to military tents made of excess canvas.
While with adoring wonder
His blessings I retrace
Although many missionaries sow a seed for another to harvest, Walton was continually blessed to meet many who his previous missions had blessed. These encounters further encouraged him to preach the evangelic message of the gospel in order to see the far corners of the globe come to know Jesus.
As the mission in South Africa grew, Walton’s role changed. His days were spent traveling among churches in America and Britain to gain further support and funding for the mission in Africa. He said, “My endeavours will be to foster a higher Christian life; for if the life is right with God, all things needful will follow.” Throughout his busy travels he was encouraged by the faithfulness God showed through his churches. Both large and small gave generously to the mission in Africa.
It seems as if eternal days
Are far too short to sing his praise!
Shortly after the tour, while on vacation with his family, Walton’s health plummeted in a span of a few days. He did not realize he was dying, so his wife felt he must be told the seriousness of his illness. She recounts his response in her diary: “Well, darling. He knows I’m ready. I’ve been ready for 34 years. Bless His Name!” He spent his remaining days blessing his children and having messages written to his friends and the missionaries he was leaving. He died at the age of 56.
W. Spencer Walton wrote, “Conversion without consecration is a death blow to progress. Consecration without faith is destitute of power.” The beauty of the gospel he portrayed in the hymn “In Tenderness He Sought Me” led him to a life dedicated to sharing Jesus’ love to the world: we were sought by Christ’s love and bought by his blood in order to share God’s love with others.
There are two things I love about this hymn. The first is that it does an amazing job of marrying the story of the Good Shepherd and the lost lamb, with our own personal redemption by Christ. The author describes himself as that lost sheep and then tells us in beautifully, poetic words what the Lord did for him (and for us) on the Cross. The second thing I love about this hymn is that you get the sense of how special and valuable each one of us is to God. In the Bible, we are reminded that we were “fearfully and wonderfully made.” The Bible tells us that God “knit” us together in our mother’s womb. Have you seen the intense focus and extreme care needed by someone who is “knitting?” My two daughters Amanada and Maria have just learnt knitting from their projects at school. Oh how they will knit till it is time to go to bed and the next day start all over again. They can not speak but gaze at the wool in their hands. On a day when I am feeling low, or unimportant, or unworthy, songs like this are great reminders of how God views us. And it is a reminder that His opinion is the only one that really counts. Whether you were familiar with this hymn or not, I hope songs like this are an encouragement to you like it is for me.
Couple of comments on the lyrics:
“He washed the bleeding sin-wounds “ – Although this thought is probably a little too graphic for some, isn’t that what sin is? Sin is an incurable, open wound that just gets worse and worse unless we accept the grace of the Great Physician. The sin-wound is ugly, and can only be washed, bandaged, and healed by the grace of God – by His Son’s precious blood.
“He whispered to assure me I’ve found thee, thou art mine”– Doesn’t it feel good to have someone important to you say nice things to you? To tell you that you are special? They don’t have to yell it on a micro phone. They don’t have to tell a crowd full of people what they think. Probably the biggest smile I get from my little girls is when I whisper in their ear – “Daddy loves you – You’re special to me.” Christ has done that same thing for us. He has sought us and bought us, and then in His gentle, loving way, told us that we are His. What an encouraging word today!
“I wondered what He saw in me” – Even after Christ saves us and tells us we are valuable and that we are His, we sometimes struggle with how we view ourselves. Isn’t it funny that the author still questions what the Lord saw in him after he acknowledges that the Good Shepherd has comforted him and told him that he belongs to Him? I think this is part of our human nature, especially in light of the Cross. The Cross is a constant reminder that we weren’t, and aren’t, worthy of such a great love. We recognize that Jesus didn’t deserve what He got. We deserved to take that punishment. It is a humbling thought, but one worth reminding ourselves of.
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossionas 1:13-14.