Come Thou Fount: Explained
Come Thou Fount has always been one of my favorite hymns. This hymn was written by Robert Robinson when he was only 22 years old in 1757. Music was written by John Wyeth in 1813 to the tune of “Nettleton”. Many hymns were sung to well-known tunes of the day so they would be easy to learn and sing. Every church I’ve ever been a part of has played it whether with organs and hymnals or with the revamped versions of David Crowder, Page CXVI, etc. Gateway worship came out with a version with a chorus even though the majority of original hymns only contained verses.
I have led worship using this song more than probably any other but will also admit to not always knowing or understanding what the lyrics meant. I think a lot of hymns get overlooked or thrown out because they are wordy or hard to understand, and I agree that they can be! But they can also be artistically creative, poetic, and explain deep theological concepts in ways that other things cannot. And of course we want to know what the words mean if we are singing them! So I think it’s worth it to study them in a similar way (but not equal to) how you would study a difficult passage in the Bible. We study the works of great preachers like Spurgeon or Whitfield. Why not the hymns of Watts and Wesley? I found the results are a deeper grip on the song’s lyrics and theology which leads to a greater appreciation for the song itself next time you sing it in church!
Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace;
- Fount means “source” or “wellspring”, also where the word fountain comes from. God is the source of every blessing that we receive. This line is addressed to him
-”Tune my heart to sing Thy grace” I think can be taken in different ways. It could mean on a deeper level that we are asking to be turned away from sin and darkness and into the light of salvation through grace. But in the context of the song I believe it is talking about how our hearts are not always “in tune” to sing praises to His name and we need to center ourselves and focus on Him. Personally, I love that this line is in the very beginning of the song!
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
-Continuing with the water imagery from “fount”, “streams of mercy, never ceasing” implies that we are constantly being given mercy from God such as a stream of water is from a greater source. This calls us to “songs of loudest praise!”
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.
- “Some melodious sonnet” is simply a song. Most likely I believe this refers to the image given by Acts 2 and in Revelation 4 when the angels in heaven are singing day and night “Holy, Holy, Holy”.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.
-”Praise the Mount” is sometimes reworded to “Praise His Name”. The source of His redeeming love is fixed upon His name, i.e. Jesus. Because of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection we have been redeemed and so we should praise Him!
Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come;
- The word “Ebenezer” means “rock of help” or “stone of help”. It comes from I Samuel 7 where Samuel put up a large stone in between two cities as a monument to help him and others to remember God’s faithfulness during a time of restoration.
-”Hither by” or other versions say “here by” which is just reminding us that we came came this far because of God, our helper.
and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
-”home” meaning our final resting place in heaven. This line reminds me of what Paul tells us in Philippians, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God;
-”sought me when a stranger” means that we did not come to God with something to offer. The bible says while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We were “wandering from the fold of God” meaning we were far off as Ephesians says in Chapter 2, “you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.
-In order to save us and “rescue us from danger” God sent His only son Jesus into the world on our behalf to die for our sinners so that we may be made right with God. “Interposed” means “intervened between two parties”, as Jesus did for mankind and God.
O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be!
-We are forever “in debt to grace” meaning we should be thankful daily for the cross. We should live each day constraining to point to the cross in everything we do. Although not directly in the Bible, it goes along with the saying “He died for me, so I will live for Him”. A more accurate description might be that found in 2 Corinthians 5 where it says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
Let thy goodness, like a fetter; bind my wandering heart to thee.
-Anytime you see “Thy” you can replace it in your mind with “Your” if it is unfamiliar to you. A “fetter” is like a chain or shackle. So this line is asking God to let His goodness bind or secure our wandering and sinful hearts to Him.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
-We are all “prone to wander” or “inclined to sin”. Prone can also mean “likely to suffer from”. As Romans tells us we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Our hearts do not incline to holiness, but to sin. So we must ask God to:
here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.
-We must ask God to take our hearts and seal them for his heavenly court. A “court” is a form of institution or tribunal that is presided over by a judge. In this case, God is the judge of the living and the dead (I Peter 4:5).
If I had to summarize this hymn into one sentence I would say this: We must daily rely on Him as our source of strength, resting in the work done on the cross for us so that we will forever reign in glory with Him forever. (See also 2 Timothy 2)