Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs: I don’t know |


Londonderry Air is the name of the musical composition which is the melody of an old Irish hymn of the same name. There’s not much redeeming value in the anthem’s lyrics, but musically it’s a great composition that most people would recognize as the melody to the famous Irish song, Danny Boy.

A variation of this tune is used in the popular and contemporary secular song, You Raise Me Up.

There are at least 11 Christian songs that have been written for this tune, including He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need, by Dottie Rambo; What Grace Is Mine, by Kristyn Getty; and Lord of the Church, We Pray for Our Renewal, by Timothy Dudley-Smith.

One artist skillfully adapted the text of Psalm 23 into the melody, and another singer used it in a public performance of the anthem, Amazing Grace.

One of Londonderry Air’s best songs is I CANNOT TELL, written by an Irishman, William Young Fullerton. As a young man, William heard the Gospel preached by Charles Spurgeon and he was saved. Spurgeon became his close friend and mentor.

William Fullerton was a Baptist preacher, administrator and writer. He was president of the Baptist Union and internal secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society. He was a frequent speaker at Keswick conventions. His published works include biographies of John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, James William Condell Fegen, and Frederick Brotherton Meyer, as well as other missionary histories and devotional writings. He also compiled several hymns.

In 1966, Ken Bible made some careful changes to the hymn while respecting William Fullerton’s original work. The result was the amazing song as written in many of our hymnals. Although it has become a popular and appropriate song for the Christmas season, it is a great hymn of affirmation to the saving work of our Saviour.

Philippians 2:7-8 may have provided some inspiration for this hymn; “He (Christ Jesus) made himself without reputation by taking the form of a slave servant and coming in the likeness of men…He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross.”

The songwriter poses several unanswered questions; Why would he do this for us? What would force him to leave his Father, to renounce his splendor and to be born in a dirty trough? Why would he choose to suffer the humiliation and agony of the cross?

There is so much we cannot know and may never fully understand about our Great God and Saviour. But there are many things we can know from His revealed Word. So after the questions come these great declarations of our faith; “But this I know is that Christ the Lord is risen, and because he lives, I will rise to eternal life. He took my guilty heart and I’m free forever. The Savior of the world is Lord and King!


I cannot say why He, the King of heaven, Must leave peace from all eternity,

Why should God, Himself, lay aside His splendor, To leave the Father’s side and come to me.

But what I do know: Our silence filled with song, And all our darkness has fled the light of heaven,

When Christ the Lord, so human and yet so holy, In love was born a child for me on this holy night.

I don’t know why He, the Joy of Heaven, would give himself to suffer for my sin,

Why should the holy God love me in my shame, Why should he die to draw my soul to him.

But this I know: That Christ the Lord is risen, And praise His Name, He is now risen in me!

Because he lives, I will rise to eternal life! He took my guilty heart, and I’m free forever!

I cannot say when He will reign over the nations, How He will claim His loved ones as His own;

And who can say holy jubilation, When all his children gather around his throne?

But this I know: all flesh will see its glory, and the heavens will burst as all creation sings.

The Son will rise on an eternal morning, When Christ, the Savior of the world, will be Lord and King!

Ralph M. Petersen and his wife, Kathy, are the owners of the OLDE TOWNE EMPORIUM at 212 E. Main St. in Rogersville, Tennessee. Your comments are welcome. You can contact him at [email protected] or by phone at (951) 321 9235.


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