690

I Know Not Why God's Wondrous Grace

Full Text

1 I know not why God's wondrous grace
to me he has made known,
nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
redeemed me for his own.

Refrain:
But "I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I've committed
unto him against that day."

2 I know not how this saving faith
to me he did impart,
nor how believing in his Word
wrought peace within my heart. [Refrain]

3 I know not how the Spirit moves,
convincing us of sin,
revealing Jesus through the Word,
creating faith in him. [Refrain]

4 I know not what of good or ill
may be reserved for me,
of weary ways or golden days,
before his face I see. [Refrain]

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

American evangelist Daniel Webster Whittle (b. Chicopee Falls, MA, 1840; d. Northfield, MA, 1901) wrote this text based on 2 Timothy 1:12, which is quoted in the refrain (King James Version). It was published with EL NATHAN in Gospel Hymns No.4 (1883).

 

The text contrasts the "I know not" stanzas with the certainty of the "I know" refrain We cannot understand God's saving grace to us (st. 1); we cannot explain our spiritual birth (st. 2); we are unable to comprehend the work of God's Spirit (st. 3); and we dl not perceive clearly the future of our earthly lives (st. 4). But we do know by faith that God is true to his word!

 

Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The Catechism says that those who know Christ’s forgiveness are “to thank God for such deliverance” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 2). As a result, “With our whole lives we may show that we are thankful to God for his benefits, so that he may be praised through us, and that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits, and so that by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 32, Question and Answer 86).

690

I Know Not Why God's Wondrous Grace

Additional Prayers

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for God’s Wondrous Grace
Gracious God, you who are lavish and unexpected in the outpouring of grace, we understand only some of your way with us. We don’t know why you have made known your wondrous grace to us or why you have redeemed us as your own. We don’t know the mysteries of your gifts of faith and peace within our heart. But we do know this: you are a God of wondrous grace. And so we praise and thank you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
690

I Know Not Why God's Wondrous Grace

Tune Information

Name
EL NATHAN
Key
D Major
Meter
8.6.8.6 refrain 9.10.8.7

Recordings

690

I Know Not Why God's Wondrous Grace

Hymn Story/Background

American evangelist Daniel Webster Whittle wrote this text based on 2 Timothy 1:12, which is quoted in the refrain (King James Version). It was published with EL NATHAN in Gospel Hymns No. 4 (1883).
 
The text contrasts the "I know not" stanzas with the certainty of the "I know" refrain. We cannot understand God's saving grace to us (st. 1); we cannot explain our spiritual birth (st. 2); we are unable to comprehend the work of God's Spirit (st. 3); and we do not perceive clearly the future of our earthly lives (st. 4). But we do know by faith that God is true to his word!
 
James McGranahan, Whittle's song leader, composed EL NATHAN. The tune’s title is a pseudonym used by Whittle. A typical gospel hymn tune, EL NATHAN is constructed with a few melodic lines and a very simple harmony, but it is marked by some rhythmic interest. The tune is easily sung in parts. Try singing the stanzas in two long lines. The text of the refrain calls for one long extended phrase; accompanists and choirs using staggered breathing can demonstrate the effectiveness of a musical “communion of the saints” by performing the entire refrain without a break.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Daniel Webster Whittle (b. Chicopee Falls, MA, 1840; d. Northfield, MA, 1901) was a bank cashier, Civil War soldier, and company treasurer before he became an evangelist. Earning the title of major during his military career, he was called Major Whittle throughout his life. Because of the influence of Dwight L. Moody whom he met during the war, Whittle became an itinerant evangelist in 1873. He conducted evangelistic campaigns in North America and Great Britain, often accompanied by popular gospel singers such as Philip P. Bliss, James McGranab and George Stebbins. These men not only sang at Whittle’s evangelistic meetings but also set to music many of his two hundred hymn texts (which he usually wrote under the pseudonym "El Nathan").
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

James McGranahan (b. Adamsville, PA, 1840; d. Kinsman, OH, 1907), of Scottish-Irish descent, grew up on the family farm, and his father expected him to become a farmer. Because he wanted to study music, McGranahan hired another person to do the farm work while he earned his own money for music study. He attended William Bradbury's Normal Music School at Geneseo, New York, conducted singing schools in Pennsylvania and New York, and taught at and managed George F. Root's Normal Musical Institution for three summers. In 1877 he became a song leader for evangelist Major D. W. Whittle and toured England and the United States; their association lasted some eleven years. A fine singer himself, McGranahan was one of the first to use male choruses in evangelistic crusades. He published The Gospel Male Choir (1878, 1883) and served as editor and compiler of numerous collections, including Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs, No. 3-6 (1878-1891) with Ira D. Sankey and George Stebbins.
— Bert Polman
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