“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

Few praises paint such a vivid picture of God’s love as this by Samuel Trevor Francis: … vast, unmeasured, boundless free; / rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me. / Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love…

It helps us visualise the immensity of Christ’s all embracing love, overwhelming and submerging us in the depth of His tender, triumphant heart.

Samuel was born on 19th November 1834, in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire north of London. His father was a merchant and an artist who moved the family to Hull. As a child, Samuel enjoyed poetry, and he also developed a passion for music, joining the church choir at the age of nine! However as a teenager he struggled spiritually, and when he moved to London to work, he knew things were not right in his heart.

One day, as he later wrote: “I was on my way home from work and had to cross Hungerford Bridge to the south of the Thames. During the winter’s night of wind and rain and in the loneliness of that walk, I cried to God to have mercy on me. I stayed for a moment to look at the dark waters flowing under the bridge, and the temptation was whispered to me: ‘Make an end of all this misery.’ I drew back from the evil thought, and suddenly a message was borne into my very soul: ‘You do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?’ At once I answered, ‘I do believe,’ and I put my whole trust in Him as my Saviour.”

Samuel went on to become a London merchant, but his real passion was Kingdom work – especially hymn writing and open-air preaching – which occupied his remaining seventy-three years. He travelled widely and preached around the world for the Plymouth Brethren. He died in 1925, aged 92.

Ebenezer the ponderous, rolling melody of the hymn is traditionally called “Ton-Y-Botel” (Tune in a Bottle), because of a legend that it was found in a bottle along the Welsh coast. In fact it was composed by Thomas J. Williams, and appeared as a hymn tune in 1890 in the hymnal Llawlyfn Moliant.

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