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“A Charge to Keep I Have”



The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 413

a God to glorify,A charge to keep I have,

a never dying soul to save,

and fit it for the sky.

According to Dr C. Michael Hawn, professor of sacred music at  Perkins School of Theology, this hymn is an unequivocal call to commitment to follow the Master and to fulfill our vocation through service.  

This hymn is grounded in Scripture.  Leviticus 8:36 is the primary source: “Keep the charge of the Lord, that ye die not.” KJV  

Each stanza brings the reader–or singer–deeper into commitment.  This is not for the light hearted.  

Why do I bring this ancient text to your attention today?  I am taking a class that requires singing (aloud) a hymn each day.  My habit is to this early each morning.  My first thought with this part of the assignment was “what rubbish.”  I cannot do this alone.  I am a horrible vocalist.  A waste of time–I will launch into the lesson–but, no, I am a rule follower, so I have done it.  

Guess what?  On this day eight, the hymns are the pivotal point of learning.  These gritty hymns with “thy” and verbs to start phrases are piercing my heart.  

Sing and PRAY this ancient hymn with me…

A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify, a never dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill; O may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will! 

Arm me with jealous care, as in thy sight to live, and oh, thy servant, Lord, prepare a strict account to give! 

Help me to watch and pray, and on thy-self rely, assured, if I my trust betray, I shall forever die.  


The professor warns that there have been several attempts to alter the last two lines…to soften the judgement implied. And we think video games are violent today…..